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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 11:47 GMT
Wales@Westminster newslog

The Wales@Westminster weblog, BBC Wales' Parliamentary correspondent David Cornock's diary on political life

Tuesday, 27 February

Holiday time

posted by David | 1215 GMT |

Fancy a day off on Thursday? Me too, but don't hold your breath.

It's that time of the year when politicians unite to call for St David's Day to be made a public holiday in Wales.

More than 11,000 people have signed a petition on the Downing Street website calling for March 1 to be made a bank holiday.

The Welsh assembly has voted for it, and it is likely to be included in the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru manifestos for the coming assembly elections - even though the issue is reserved to Westminster and they cannot deliver it without parliament legislating for it.

The UK Government has vetoed the idea amid concern at the cost of a day's lost production to the Welsh economy, an economy largely integrated with England.

This is its official response to the petition: "The Government receives a variety of suggestions for new or different Bank Holidays and celebrations.

"Whilst the Government is pleased that so many people are interested, as you can imagine it is not possible to please everyone as to who or what should be celebrated.

"Unlike Northern Ireland, where St Patrick's Day is a bank holiday, bank and public holidays in Great Britain do not, by tradition commemorate particular individuals, events or institutions, other than those associated with Christmas and Easter.

"Moreover, many individuals and communities in Wales already celebrate St David's Day in a way they consider more suitable.

The present pattern of bank holidays in the United Kingdom is well established and accepted, and the Government has no current plans to change the arrangements."

Nick Bourne, who leads the Tory assembly group, said: "There is no real barrier to making St David's Day a bank holiday other than the Labour Party's inability to take the issue seriously."

But there are other barriers - closer to home for the Tories. Nick Bourne said something similar before the last general election, but clearly failed to convince the then Tory leader Michael Howard of the policy - which failed to appear in the party's manifesto.

Shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan gave a non-committal answer when I asked whether she agreed with Mr Bourne.

Tory leader David Cameron is in Cardiff this weekend for the party's Welsh conference. Will he support his Welsh leader on this crucial issue or is he one of the barriers blocking a holiday?

Again, don't hold your breath - it would be surprising if the Conservative assembly manifesto did anything more than commit the party to put pressure on Labour at Westminster to transfer the powers to Cardiff.

The St David's Day bank holiday is the 10th most popular e-petition on the Downing Street website. Mind you, almost 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for God Save the Queen to be replaced by Spandau Ballet's Gold.


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