LAST week I mentioned that being in Government is often about making judgements on thorny issues.
Well, here’s an interesting one that I’d be pleased to receive readers’ feedback on: Bank Holidays.
On first inspection, the idea of a Bank Holiday is wholly positive: time off work, an opportunity to be with the family, out and about or relaxing in the garden (if the weather is rather more kind to us than last weekend, that is).
Over the years, many local people have explained to me that because of their jobs, Bank Holidays, especially Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, are the only time they’re guaranteed to be off.
As is so often the case, however, there’s an alternative view.
Some people say their businesses suffer as a result of the days of downed tools - particularly small and medium enterprises and those based in factories, offices and the building trade.
Debate was increased over Easter by The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) think tank.
It said that each Bank Holiday costs the economy £2.3bn and that getting rid of them would increase GDP by £19bn each year.
Even that argument has a flip-side – shops, pubs, restaurants, DIY concerns and visitor attractions are really boosted by Bank Holidays and many do the bulk of their annual trade on those occasions and at weekends.
Some might say that Bank Holidays are good for people’s general wellbeing – extra time off work is good for morale, they bring families and the whole country together and they may well reduce unauthorised absences.
The CEBR suggest spreading Bank Holidays across the year would be better for the economy, as, they say, some businesses and industries lose momentum in the spring and summer when they’re all bunched together.
As a Government, we’re always interested in the arguments for and against changing the calendar.
Should we keep the system as it is?
We have fewer than most European countries.
Spain, for example, has 14 a year; Austria, 13; Greece, 12; France, 11; Belgium, ten; and Germany, nine.
The US technically has ten public holidays; but a culture of much shorter holidays more generally.
So, however you spent your Easter weekend – at work, having fun, doing nothing special, or catching up on all the DIY jobs you’d put off since the last Bank Holiday – I’d be pleased to hear your views.
MP for Horsham