May Day bank holiday plans unveiled

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWatch: Minister for Tourism, John Penrose said Britain is a great year-round destination

Plans to scrap the May Day bank holiday in England and Wales for alternative dates have been outlined by ministers.

Under the proposals, the holiday would be moved to St George's Day in April in England and St David's Day in March in Wales, or a Trafalgar Day in October.

Ministers said the move would lengthen the tourist season but trade unions said it would disrupt firms and staff.

Meanwhile, widely discussed plans to bring UK clocks into line with Europe were not in the tourism policy paper.

'National day'

Tourism Minister John Penrose said that proposal had been "in, then out" twice from the final published document.

But he told the BBC that although many people in the tourism industry were keen on the clocks idea, the issue was not one just about tourism.

Mr Penrose said: "That is not part of the tourism policy. The government is not going to take that forward unless people in Scotland and Northern Ireland are comfortable with it."

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) policy paper includes proposals to move the May Day holiday to St George's Day on 23 April in England and St David's Day on 1 March in Wales - to create a "national day".

A move to an October holiday in England and Wales could be either a "Britain day" or a national day to mark military victories such as the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Decisions about bank holidays are devolved in other parts of the UK.

Mr Penrose said he wanted to encourage more Britons to holiday at home and at the same time to get more foreign people to visit the UK.

"As a nation we are a little bit prone to underplay what we have on our doorstep," he said.

Mr Penrose said the tourism industry also had a "fantastic chance to step up a further gear" by making the most of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics next year.

'Red tape'

The government aims to bring in an extra four million overseas visitors to Britain over the next four years, who would spend an additional £2bn, creating 50,000 jobs.

Consultation will now begin on any possible changes to the UK's tourism strategy but no moves are expected until 2013.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "There is strong support for an extra public holiday as the UK has the stingiest allocation in Europe.

"But messing around with established bank holidays will disrupt people's schedules and create more red tape for employers."

He argued moving the May Day holiday forward was not about bringing forward the tourist season, which he said started around Easter anyway.

'Bee in bonnet'

Instead, he said, it was "all about satisfying Tory backwoodsmen who have a bee in their bonnet because of May Day's association with international labour day".

May Day was a traditional British celebration dating back to the fourth century, he added.

The idea behind "double summer time" is to have clocks an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in the winter and a further hour in the summer, to match Central European Time, which would mean lighter nights but darker mornings.

But many people in Scotland have opposed the move, saying some of the northern-most areas would not see daylight until 1000 GMT during winter, increasing the risk of accidents.

A DCMS spokeswoman said: "The government position on double summer time has not changed.

"We know the tourism industry is keen to see changes to summer time, however the government has always been clear that it will not make changes unless all parts of the UK were in favour."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites