§ 2.46 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON rose to call attention to Cmnd. Paper 2105 (Staggered Holidays) which demonstrates the desirability of extending the annual holiday season and of avoiding the coincidence of week-end travel and day-trips with main holidays; to the need, if this is to be done, for an initiative by Government Departments and other bodies; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an important social matter affecting the lives of the great mass of our fellow countrymen, and one which also has a great effect upon the economics of the country, and is a subject which I think it is especially suitable for your Lordships to discuss. It is a matter which is not a political issue, but it is perhaps all the more important on that account. The importance of the staggering of holidays has been apparent for a long time. It is becoming steadily and rapidly more so as the number of people able to take holidays annually increases; and with the changes which are announced in transport—the Beeching Report and so on—it is likely that we shall, in the near future, reach a crisis.
§ In 1937 only 15 million people in this country went away from their homes on a holiday. By 1961 this had increased to 30 million. But still there are 20 million people in this country who do not go away from home for a holiday. That is a clear indication of what will be the effect, as holiday-taking becomes more general, if nothing is done to meet the problem of congestion. Despite the great increase in the number of holidays taken, it continues to be the case that there is an acute peak. A vast number of people go away on holiday all at the same time. Sixty-three per cent. of all those who go on holiday go away in July or August, but the peak is most acute in just the fourteen days between July 24 and August 7:25 per cent, of all the holidays taken are started during that period. Seven million people congest our railways and roads in that fortnight; and another 5 million people do so in the preceding fortnight between the 10th and 24th July. This means an intense pressure upon holiday accommodation. Because the hotels, boarding houses and 562 all forms of recreation have to cover their year's expenses in this short period of time, it means that prices must necessarily be higher than they would need to be if the holiday season were longer. In the second place, it also creates an acute pressure upon transport. I will deal with that point first.
§ The Beeching Report has indicated that, if permission is given by the Government, a very large number of branch lines will be closed down. A large proportion of our holiday resorts are on branch lines which are condemned to be closed under the Becching plan. Map No. 9 shows these closures, and I will give one example which is not an extreme example. Only two branch lines, as I understand it, will be left leading to the coast between Bristol and Land's End. In addition to this closing of branch lines which, of course, is dependent on the Government's consent, there is also to be the scrapping of some 6,000 carriages which are regarded as surplus. Of these, 2,000 are used on only ten occasions in the year, another 2,000 on fourteen occasions, and another 2,000 on eighteen occasions. The net annual loss to the railways on that is £2.9 million. I do not think Dr. Beeching requires the consent of the Minister to do away with that surplus stock, and he says in the Report that, by the end of 1965, stock will not be available for use at high peak periods. It follows that, with this policy being adopted by the railways, there must be greatly increased use of the roads.
§ In 1962, 74 per cent. of the holidaymakers went by road; 55 per cent. of them by car, and already that had resulted, with even those numbers, in these appalling progresses to the coast. With hundreds of cars bumper to bumper, much of the pleasure, enjoyment and benefit in holidaymaking must disappear during those long and wearisome hours on the road. Making bigger and better roads will not in itself be any solution, because even if transport to the coast and to other resorts is improved, there is the problem of where the cars are to be parked when they get there; and this, naturally, is more particularly acute when they are going to the seaside.
§ Superimposed on the long holidays, which are, as I have pointed out, taken so largely at the end of July and the beginning of August, there is the problem 563 of daily and weekend trips—short periods taken away from home which are not included in the figures that I have given for what I call holidays. For example, August Bank Holiday—and many people go away for August Bank Holiday only, or take their holiday at some other time of the year—is superimposed upon the greatest rush period of all for the holidaymakers. It is a remarkable thing that 75 per cent. of all the holidays taken in this country begin at the weekend, and mostly on Saturday. This is the problem which we have to face.
I would suggest that the first essential step should be to try to separate the time of holidaymakers' travelling from the weekend. Providers of accommodation would welcome it if holidays, instead of beginning at the weekend, began in the middle of the week. The British Federation of Hotel and Boarding Houses Associations say:
A greater willingness on the part of hotels and boarding houses to accept midweek bookings … if this were practised on a wider scale … would certainly help to avoid … congestion at the weekends.
Of course, they cannot be expected to welcome bookings from Wednesday to Wednesday if it is only a comparatively small proportion of all the holidaymakers who try to begin and end their holidays on a Wednesday. In isolated cases it might well mean that one booking beginning and ending on a Wednesday would result in the loss of two bookings which had begun at the weekend. The question is: is there any reason why holidaymakers should prefer to begin their holidays at the weekend? When one analyses the kind of holiday we are discussing, one finds there is really no reason for it at all.
§ For the normal holiday, 30 per cent. of the industrial workers in particular go away to an unlicensed hotel or a boarding house, and take their holiday for a fixed period of seven or fourteen days. It may appear to them at first sight that by starting their holiday at a weekend they gain the benefit of an extra period of holiday. But, of course, in point of fact this is not the case. They are obliged to vacate their accommodation on holiday on the seventh or fourteenth day in order that new bookings may be given. What in fact on analysis is the case is that the only advantage, if it be one, is that after 564 returning home the breadwinner, or breadwinners, have a Sunday at home without work. Now from their point of view that may be an advantage. Probably from the point of view of the housewife it is actually a disadvantage because, of course, she finds that the shops are closed on that day. But it is quite clear that, from the point of view of convenience of travel and of enjoyment of holidays, it would be well worth while to alter the general scheme so that holidays begin and end in midweek.
§ I turn now to the question of spreading holidays over a longer period in the year. June, with its longer days, more sunshine and less rain, is the period when a great many people who now are unable to do so would wish to take their holidays. The figures are given in paragraph 25 of the White Paper. This would require a great and planned change, because most people are not at liberty to choose for themselves when they take their holidays. The main underlying cause of the present dates of holidays is the school year. In the White Paper reference is made, by implication, to the great educational difficulties in altering the school year. I have been at some pains to make inquiries as to exactly what the difficulties are, and I have come to the conclusion that, to a very large extent, it is due to the unintelligent conservatism, if there be such a thing—
§ LORD MOLSON
—of those who are engaged in organising the examinations. One thing which one must, of course, accept is that it is of the utmost importance that school-leavers should leave school soon after taking their examination for the General Certificate of Education. One is appalled to think of what the effect would be, in idleness, and worse, if there were a number of school-leavers who, having taken their examination, were kept on at school for weeks or months, without an obvious objective, before they actually left school.
But there is no reason why the General Certificate of Education examination should not be completely finished by the end of June, or even earlier. In fact, the great majority of papers are already finished before the end of June. It is only in the case of a comparatively small 565 number that they drag over into July and delay the time when school holidays can begin. In Birmingham, for example, the County Borough Council has for this very purpose decided that holidays shall begin at the end of June, and the examinations have fitted themselves in accordingly. In the case of Scotland, the examination for the Scottish Certificate of Education was, until 1961, concluded by March or April, and at the present time is concluded in May. I see no reason at all why the seven or eight examining boards should not make the necessary effort to ensure that the G.C.E. examination is concluded by the end of May.
If and when the educationists have cleared the way, there will be no difficulty for industry, when fixing holidays, to take into account the possibility and desirability of starting them sooner. There are already many factories, perhaps most, which stagger holidays in order to remain in production; so they are already doing what we are anxious that they should do. There are other cases where complete factories close down, and even, in some cases, whole industries. I see that this practice is likely to start in the case of the great motor car industry, and I hone that the importance of timing holidays will be taken into account if that very large industry decides to close down completely for a period of time, as is indicated in a recent report in the Guardian.
Then there are, as those with experience of the North know, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Wakes Weeks, which are, in fact, holidays for whole towns. There, for a long time, local authorities concerned have been accustomed to meeting annually and arranging it so that their Wakes Weeks do not clash and thereby cause unnecessary inconvenience to their own people. It is quite possible to spread industrial holidays over a much larger part of the English summer (when it can be relied upon at any time) if only people are not bound by this difficulty of concluding the examinations. It does not affect merely those with children at school; obviously, when industry is considering the dates for fixing holidays for its workers, many of those who do not have children at school are obliged to go at a time that is convenient for those who have.
566 The third point arises in connection with the so-called bank holidays. I am not raising the question of a fixed date for Easter: provision with regard to that is already on the Statute Book, and has been since 1928. But I am sure that a fixed date for Easter would be desirable if the whole of Christendom could agree upon a date. But it is not necessary to go into that matter. There is no religious association with Whit Monday. It could be made into an entirely secular holiday, with a fixed date at the end of May, which would be just before the beginning of the holiday season. It would, of course, be important that it should be so arranged as not to interrupt the G.C.E. examination. Similar considerations apply in the case of August Bank Holiday. It would be immensely helpful if it were at the end of August or the beginning of September, and if both were re-named "National Holidays".
I think that Parliament itself might set an example in this matter. I believe that the reason both Houses adjourn at the end of July or the beginning of August is that the "knights of the Shires" and noble Lords found it necessary to go back to their country estates to supervise the garnering of the harvests. I do not think it is always realised how many people, in the Civil Service and elsewhere, are bound by the Parliamentary Recesses as to the times when they take their holidays.
My Lords, I believe that such a change as I have indicated has long been a desirable social change, but reason and propaganda, taken alone, will be useless unless an initiative is taken by those who have the power to take it. I know that Her Majesty's Government do not control either the local education authorities or industry, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government could insist upon the G.C.E. examination being concluded at a time which would be to the general economic and social advantage of the country. I have every reason to think that once a lead had been given, industry would be most willing to cooperate. An immense amount depends, of course, upon the attitude of the trade unions, but several noble Lords will speak on that subject this afternoon, and I know that in years past the Trades Union Congress has in its Annual Report recommended a measure of this 567 kind. I think that they feel, as certainly I do, that a change of this kind would be of immense benefit to those who spend many months labouring hard in industrial towns.
This is one of those reforms, like day light-saving, which for many years were obstructed, not for any good reason but simply because of the unwillingness of people in this country to take an initiative and change what had been a long-established custom. I believe that this would be of great value. I believe that all the indications are that, owing to the increasing use of the motor car and the likelihood that the railways will cut their peak-time and local services, we are approaching something in the nature of a crisis in this matter, and I hope that this afternoon your Lordships will give a lead to the Government and the country upon this matter. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has introduced his Motion with such thoroughness and comprehensiveness that I find myself in some difficulty about what I am going to add to what he has said. Indeed, towards the end of his speech it seemed to me the best thing I could do was get up and say, "I second the Motion". He has dealt fully and admirably with the topic, and I say this not in criticism but rather in admiration of his performance.
However, there are a few points that I should like to stress, and in doing so I must make it quite clear that, although I speak from this Box, I am not expressing a Party point of view; nor can I be said, as a trade unionist, to be speaking for the trade union movement as a whole; for while both, I am sure, support the general proposal in principle, neither of the bodies have committed themselves to any set of proposals towards staggering holidays. I say this although, of course, the Trades Union Congress has been consulted as part of the National Joint Advisory Council, as the White Paper makes clear. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Williamson, when he comes to speak, will be able to give us a little more inside information than I have at the moment on the trade union side.
568 Having made that clear, I hope, speaking as a railwayman I am bound to say that I am a very strong supporter of any reasonable proposal that would lower the peaks and raise the valleys, whether that proposal relates to the staggering of holidays or to the staggering of office hours in London, both of which cause exceptional difficulties to the railway industry. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, dealt adequately with branch lines, and he also reminded us of the fact that the Beeching Report has some forceful paragraphs on this topic of summer holidays and public holiday peaks. It says:This peak traffic differs from steady traffic and it is gradually being eroded much more by the growth of private transport".Then, after giving the comparable figures between 1951 and 1961 of the erosion that is actually taking place, it tells us that in 1959 (and the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has touched upon this point) the British Railway services total of gangway coaches allocated to fast and semi-fast services numbered some 18,500. Six thousand of those were required as follows: 2,000 on ten occasions, 2,000 on fourteen occasions and 2,000 on 18 occasions. The annual cost of providing those 6,000 coaches was £3.4 million. Against this, those 6,000 coaches earned only £.5 million.
The Report says bluntly that this stock is being reduced so that by the end of 1965 none will be available for this peak traffic, and it says that all efforts will be made to control these peaks by seat reservation schemes and by a fares policy, as is the custom with the airline services. And it tells us, under the heading of the financial consequences of the plan, that the net saving it expects from all this is OA million. Whether we like this running down of this stock or not, the fact is that it is going on, and no transport users' consultatve committee, or anybody else, is brought into this consideration by representations made by the public. I say and assert that Dr. Beeching is right to do this as long as his terms of reference remain to make the railways pay. But the consequences of this will clearly have to be faced, as they will be, partly by more cars on the roads and partly by spreading the load by staggered holidays.
But we then must face what the noble Lord, Lord Molson, called the crisis, for 569 crisis there certainly will be by the end of 1965; and it will be a crisis which will deepen with every passing year unless we do something. Mr. Marples, speaking in the other place on Monday, said that by the end of the century our population of 52 million will have increased to 70 million and all families who want a car will have one, which will mean 35 million vehicles on our roads, that being some three to four times the number there are now. Whatever the road improvements, no roads will be able to carry the load at holiday peaks of the kind we now have.
Clearly, the question we have to discuss is what can be done to lower the holiday peaks? I think it is obvious that this problem cannot be solved by Government action alone, although the Government can take some helpful actions. The first question arises from piling on top of the holiday peak period the August Bank Holiday traffic. This brings a tremendous pressure on all forms of transport and, of course, pressure on the resorts. I have always thought that our bank holidays are not as well spaced out over the year as they might be. August Bank Holiday is often too soon on the heels of Whitsun, and is always too far away from Christmas; the gap between August and Christmas is much too big. It seems to me that Easter and Whitsun might very well be fixed dates; although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that there may be a lot of religious feeling on this matter and that the whole thing will have to be very carefully considered and religious bodies consulted on any decision that would have to be taken, especially as it would apply to Easter. But certainly the bank holiday falling between Whitsun and Christmas ought to be fixed on either the last Monday in August or the first Monday in September, as has been suggested. That would have an immediate effect on the worst holiday congestion.
Also careful consideration ought to be given to the changing of the school terms and holidays. In this connection the G.C.E. examination is an important factor. If it is possible, the G.C.E. examination ought to be taken in the middle of June at the latest. There might be some advantage, too, in lengthening the school summer holiday, 570 even if it means shortening the Christmas and Easter breaks. I believe this is done in many countries. I believe that Scotland does not suffer from the difficulty we have in this connection. But, certainly, there are no real disadvantages to be expected from such an alteration to the school holidays and the terms as we now have them.
I do not see how the Government could do much more than alter the dates of bank holidays and school examinations, except by stimulating industries and towns to consider the problem and take appropriate action. There is no single answer to this problem, for all industries and localities differ in their possibilities of bringing this about. These problems arise from the interdependence of industries the one upon the other, and the industry upon its contractors. But in many of them the problem is not insuperable, providing there is the will to tackle it.
The wakes weeks idea is not suitable everywhere. The wakes weeks were particularly suitable in the single industry towns, such as the cotton towns where they originated. They have now spread, understandably perhaps, to the mining areas, where single industries still dominate large parts of the population. The idea is spreading, and recently in my own home town the Treforest trading estate, upon which there is a variety of industries, decided upon holiday weeks at the same time. I gather that no particular difficulties have been experienced as the result of this decision.
The towns where wakes weeks are traditional can certainly help by moving away from the peak periods. I understand that Rochdale has shifted its two weeks to the second fortnight in June. An honourable friend of mine in another place, a prominent cotton union official, told me how it was done. First of all, a union ballot was held of the members, and, because cotton is no longer the sole industry of Rochdale, the engineers also held a ballot. This was a co-operative effort between the main trade unions concerned, of cotton and engineering. In the first ballot they held they asked: would members be prepared to shift the weeks to a less congested holiday period? The ballot showed that three to one were in favour of such a shift; they had become a little tired of 571 finding the seaside resorts over-filled and transport difficult. The second ballot asked the members: would they agree to starting in mid-June? And two to one were in favour of starting in mid-June. As a result, the holiday last year in Rochdale was taken at this time.
I asked my honourable friend whether there were many complaints about this change after the first experience, and he said that complaints and grumbles about it were surprisingly few. The main complaints received were that there was in this period a lack of the usual seaside entertainments: they were not provided by the resorts at this time. On this point my honourable friend wrote to eighteen seaside resorts, and he received from most of these places, from the town clerks, replies which showed that the entertainments in most of them opened up in the second week of this late June period; and it was made quite clear by the town clerks and others concerned that, given a sufficient number of June visitors, they would have no difficulty at all about getting these entertainments to open earlier than was now the case.
A few of the grumblers found the less crowded resorts not to their taste. This is something that I cannot understand, but a number of people can. They like to be there with a good mob milling around. I hate it. But a number of these people complained that they do not like to be away from home and at these resorts in the comparatively lonely circumstances of that time. Surprisingly few found the G.C.E. examinations a difficulty; but there were some families who stayed at home and missed their holidays completely, as the result of their children taking the G.C.E. examination. My honourable friend explained the fact of there being surprisingly few of them by saying, "After all, the G.C.E. examination affects a family perhaps only two or three times in a working lifetime". But, of course, looked at over the country as a whole, these G.C.E. examinations affect parents and I think have an effect on this business of taking holidays after the examinations and during congested holiday periods.
Rochdale's experience seems to me to point, first, to a willingness to change to a less congested period, and secondly, to the fact that the G.C.E. examination is a limiting factor in only some cases. 572 The few grumbles about the lack of entertainment facilities would easily and gladly be met if more people came earlier to resorts. What I would say to towns which have these weeks, or towns which are considering them, is that what Rochdale did yesterday many more towns and industries ought to be doing to-day and to-morrow. I greatly hope that the debate to-day will lead to Government action, in so far as it lies in the Government's power to affect the holiday period. Certainly I hope that it will lead to more thought being given by towns and industries to means of reducing the existing holiday congestion in resorts, on the roads and on the railways. I am sure that something has to be done, and it ought to be done soon. I certainly thank the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for introducing his Motion and for giving this subject an airing, which I hope will lead to action in the not too distant future.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD MABANE
My Lords, I, too, think that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, deserves thanks for introducing this important subject and bringing it to wide public notice; and the Board of Trade are surely to be commended for compiling and publishing this White Paper, Staggered Holidays. I agree with Lord Molson that this is a matter of unusual social and economic importance. It affects the cost and the comfort of many millions of our own people, and it bears upon one of our major export industries. At the same time, it indicates how many of our own problems of congestion on the roads, on rail, in the air and on the sea, as well as at holiday resorts, may be eased. More than that, the realisation of the purpose of this White Paper would add many millions of pounds to national revenue and would be to the profit of many interests, both public and private. These are large claims, but I do not think they are exaggerated, for in this matter home holidays are indissolubly knit with the task of attracting visitors from abroad.
I have, of course, a special interest. Until this year I was Chairman of the British Travel and Holidays Association. On my retirement I was elected President, in succession to my noble friend Lord Woolton. I am glad to say that another Member of this House, Lord 573 Geddes, has succeeded me as Chairman. During that period I learnt that travel and tourism have become one of the world's major industries. We in Britain came late into the business. Before the last war tourism and holidays in Britain were almost entirely a domestic affair. We did not rank ourselves with the traditional international tourist countries—France, Switzerland and Italy. The need for dollars after the war drove us into the business. When Mr. Harold Wilson was President of the Board of Trade, the British Travel and Holidays Association was brought into being as the chosen instrument for the two-fold purpose of attracting visitors from all over the world and not merely from the U.S.A., and of improving within Britain all the amenities calculated to be of benefit both to visitors from abroad and to our own native holidaymakers. The success, judged by the growth both in numbers and in expenditure, has been staggering.
The White Paper, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has said, shows that the numbers of our own nationals annually taking main and subsidiary holidays rose from 25 million in 1955 to 31 million in 1963. Expenditure has grown from £465 million in 1955 to £650 million in 1963. These are very large figures. The number of visitors from abroad has risen from nearly 1,040,000 in 1955 to 2,150,000 in 1963, and their expenditure within Britain and on British carriers has risen from £160 million to well over £300 million. The Association predict that numbers and expenditure, in regard to both home holidaymakers and visitors from abroad, will increase by another 10 per cent. in the present year, 1964. In fact, the amount gained from visitors from abroad now represents no less than 8 per cent. of our total export revenue; and the holiday industry has become the largest dollar-earner and the fourth largest in our category of exports.
Many people find it difficult to understand why visitors from abroad should come to Britain for pleasure. They underestimate our own assets. Britain is now one of the major tourist attractions of the world. A world-wide survey recently undertaken in the United States of America states that for the first time this year London is ahead of Paris as the "number one" American tourist 574 attraction, with Rome third. This advance does not surprise me, but I know it is regarded with incredulity by some of my fellow countrymen. But facts are facts.
This immense increase in holiday travel, both by ourselves and our visitors, creates urgent problems. Increasingly, great congestion occurs at peak periods, in all forms of accommodation, in restaurants, on the roads, on the railways, in the air, on the sea, at the resorts and in the countryside. The peak periods are July and August and, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said, they account together for 65 per cent. of home holidays, while June and September account for only 24 per cent. Then comes a strange paradox. A further survey revealed that these figures do not in the least represent the preferred times for holidays. Only 38 per cent. prefer to take their holidays in July and August. The main preference is for June and September—that is to say, 43 per cent. for June and 16 per cent. for September.
I now come to the actual purpose of this debate: staggered holidays. The Board of Trade and my Association desire, first, to impress on the country the enormous advantages, both social and economic, of spreading the holiday season more evenly over the months from May to October; and, second, to discover and suggest means whereby by legislative, administrative and voluntary measures this may be achieved. This problem is not new; nor has it lacked attention. It is not a problem peculiar to this country, although the fact that Britain is so compact makes our problem more difficult. Efforts to stagger holidays have a long history, and as the years have passed the urgency has become more acute. There have been debates and questions in both Houses of Parliament. It was raised in your Lordships' House in 1959 and 1960 by Lord Gifford. Responsibility for the initiative in this matter was placed firmly upon the British Travel and Holidays Association, and it has not been slow to face the task. The Association recognises that formidable obstacles stand in the way of staggering holidays, and, further, as the White Paper emphasises, that the possibilities of legislative action are very restricted.
575 I should like to point to some of the main obstacles. Families commonly wish to take holidays together, and therefore where families include children of school age the incidence of school terms and school holidays are a controlling factor. Again, when wives as well as husbands are in employment, and usually different employments, the arrangement of holiday periods to coincide is not easy. As important is the fact that in many industries where whole plants close down for the holiday periods it is urged that for industrial convenience the second half of July and the first half of August are best.
Nevertheless, the initiative of the B.T.H.A. has never flagged. In 1950 it pressed the Minister of Education to urge local authorities to spread the holidays more widely over the summer months. Every year since then, in the recommendations made annually to the Government, this plea has been developed and reiterated. In 1954, in 1958 and in 1960 conferences were organised by the Association, attended by all interests concerned, including the Ministry of Education, and at all times there was overwhelming support for the desirability for staggering school holidays. At the same time, efforts have been made continuously, and with considerable success, to persuade towns which, especially in Lancashire (where the holidays are known as wakes weeks), close down completely for the holiday period, to move the holiday period away from July and August. Individual plants have been persuaded in some cases to do the same.
As to school holidays, in the last few years the Ministry of Education has shown great good will and has been doing its best to help. As has already been said, it has no power to fix the holiday date in most cases, nor to determine the dates of G.C.E. examinations. Now there is reasonable hope that the Ministry will press local authorities and other bodies concerned to bring the vital examinations to an end in May. In industry there has been progress, but not enough—the noble Lord, Lord Champion, mentioned some examples; the noble Lord, Lord Molson, mentioned 576 others. In 1962 the Midland motor industry advanced the holiday period by one week. That has been done already. In the same year Leyland's, in Lancashire, changed its holiday from the last two weeks in July to the last two weeks in June. Rochdale, God bless them!, pioneers of the Co-operative movement, are among the pioneers in changing their industrial holiday from August to June. It is encouraging that the Trades Union Congress recently expressed views which are in close accord with those expressed by Lord Molson and myself.
Again, as has been said, an important aspect of this matter is the incidence of Summer Time and of public holidays. Year by year my Association has pressed for changes in these respects which would contribute greatly to the holiday spread. Progress has been slow, but in total it has been considerable. The first major break-through was in 1960 when Summer Time for 1961 was extended for three weeks at either end, and the change was repeated in 1962 and 1963. This year Summer Time—in case any noble Lords do not know when to put their clocks forward—will start even a week earlier. At resorts and hotels reporting to us, the extra three weeks at the end has had very great effect, particularly on secondary holidays.
What else can be done? Much, I believe, by publicity and propaganda; and not least by this debate to-day in this House. The British people must be shaken from their belief that July and August are the best times for holidays; they are not. Quite apart from the fact that these months are the most crowded and the most expensive, they fall behind May and June in sunshine, and exceed May, June and September in rainfall. The popularity of August is not a little due to that great public benefactor, Sir John Lubbock, who secured the establishment by Statute in 1871 of the first Monday in August as a public holiday—St. Lubbock's Day, as it was popularly called. For many years, my Association with very wide general support has held the view, which has also been expressed by my noble friend Lord Molson, and the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that our public holidays are wrongly situated in the calendar; and it is my personal opinion that they are too few.
577 It is unfortunate that by a strange doctrinal accident Easter and Whitsuntide, to which public holidays are attached, are movable feasts. Apart from the damage done to business and industry, the movement of Easter and Whitsuntide year by year upsets the holiday season and prevents its extension. Thank heavens the Feast of the Nativity is fixed by date on December 25! Imagine the confusion and economic loss if Christmas could fall between the first week in December and the third week in January. There is no historical—I hope the right reverend Prelate will agree with me—or doctrinal reason, either, why the other three anniversaries should jump about according to the date of a purely notional paschal moon.
This is an old story. It has been mentioned already that the Easter Act, fixing Easter Day as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April, is already on the Statute Book. The Easter Act was passed by both Houses of Parliament and received the Royal Assent in 1928, but no day has ever been appointed for bringing this Act into force. Rarely has there been such unanimity in support of a Bill, as Lord Birkenhead said when commending the Bill to your Lordships' House on behalf of the Government in July, 1928. And on October 25 last year the Vatican Council, certainly to my surprise, adopted by a great majority a Resolution which if carried into effect would lead to a fixed Easter. So there is some action which the Government can take at once. They can take steps to enable the Easter Act to be brought into force now. If, however, there is not yet sufficient agreement among the Christian churches on the date for Easter, that does not prevent us from abandoning the anomalous attachment of spring and summer public holidays to religious occasions, and to banks—banks which, like the "flowers that bloom in the spring", have nothing to do with the case.
Far better would it be to abandon Easter Monday and Whit Monday as public holidays and substitute by law two, or as I would prefer three, days as spring holidays; in addition throwing in for the time being Good Friday, 578 which I am advised is a Common Law holiday, for good measure. I suggest that these new spring holidays might be the first or second Monday in April and the seventh Monday thereafter. Next, what is called the August Bank Holiday should be moved to the last Monday in August or, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, suggested, to the first Monday in September. And I personally, like the noble Lord, Lord Champion, would like an additional public holiday towards the end of October. I think that would contribute to national health, and would possibly prevent some industries from having strikes, because their workmen would not be so tired. Let us at the same time abandon the misnomer of the title "bank holiday". Banks are not holy.
It is a surprise to many to know that we have fewer public holidays than any other country in Europe. For that I blame— perhaps the right reverend Prelate will not object—the Reformation and the Puritan Revolution which deprived us of our basic holy days, the Saints' days. Your Lordships will recollect that Lord Protector Cromwell forbade the celebration of Christ Mass—a practice which I think is still observed in Scotland. Moreover, we are behind most of Europe in the matter of statutory paid holidays, although over a very wide area many public authorities and commercial and industrial concerns in Britain now add a third week's holiday to the statutory minimum. Much has been done, therefore, and is being done, both directly and indirectly, to stagger holidays, but much more can and should be done. I hope the Government will give every encouragement to such efforts, as I am quite sure they are anxious to do, and I have every reason to believe that Her Majesty's Opposition is no less willing to give support.
Holidays spread more evenly over the year from May to October, besides adding to general comfort, would have great and beneficial economic consequences. As my noble friend Lord Molson indicated, the cost of accommodation could be reduced. I have been supplied with the monthly figures of bed occupancy in representative resorts over the year, by one of our most important hotel groups. They vary month by month from under 10 per cent. in the off-season 579 to over 106 per cent. in the height of the season, when, I suppose, people are sleeping in baths. This uneven spread increases costs and greatly accentuates the problem of staffing, and it increases the degree to which hotel employment is casual. It also prevents local authorities from arranging at resorts programmes of entertainment to cover six months.
Even more important when export revenue is being considered—and this is particularly a concern of mine—it is beginning to limit the number of visitors from abroad, for travel agents are now finding great difficulty in securing accommodation for those who wish to come to Britain in peak periods. We are, as it were, having to turn the customers away. For these reasons, if I may speak as one who has made an intensive study of this matter, I am convinced that spreading the holiday season more evenly over the spring and summer months, with some overspill into autumn, as my noble friend Lord Molson has indicated, would be worth millions of pounds in increased export revenue from visitors from abroad, millions in reduced costs for home holidaymakers and millions in increased profits for all who provide accommodation. These may seem large figures, but remember that in the tourist business we now talk, not in millions, but in tens and hundreds of millions. In addition there would be increased profits for the local authorities and all forms of transport undertakings.
It may seem to your Lordships that my enthusiasm in support of this Motion so ably proposed by my noble friend Lord Molson is excessive. But tourism has come to stay and is now throughout the world a great and growing element in consumer expenditure. I am delighted that this is so, for I am convinced that travel, and especially international travel, is not merely an important educative influence, but also a major contribution to international understanding at the level of the ordinary people, and therefore a contribution to the preservation of peace. I have little doubt that the Government fully accept the validity of the arguments advanced by my noble friend Lord Molson, by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and, I hope, by myself, and I trust that, in reply, the Minister will give all of us some encouragement. I know the difficulty is to find ways and means of progressing along the lines of 580 this admirable White Paper, so widely and rightly acclaimed, but I know that all concerned with this great industry are eagerly waiting for a lead from the the Government to translate the dream into the business.