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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 16:15 GMT
'Slap' over St David's Day holiday
St David's Day graphic
Wales has no chance of having a public holiday on St David's Day unless the idea receives backing from business bosses.

The UK Government has rejected the Welsh Assembly Government's appeal for 1 March to become a bank holiday in Wales, claiming it would bring extra costs and disruption for firms.


This is another example of ineffective negotiation by the First Minister and the Secretary of State and is a slap in the face for Wales and the assembly

Owen John Thomas, Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru said the rejection was another "slap in the face for Wales", while the Welsh Liberal Democrats said it provided further evidence for the assembly to have more power to govern its own affairs.

Assembly leaders in Cardiff Bay had hoped the request - to mark the death of Wales' patron saint - would be announced in the Queen's Speech later this month.

Britain languishes at second from bottom in the European bank holiday league with just eight - half the number there are in Italy.

The left-wing think-tank The Fabian Society has urged Labour to include a commitment to bring Britain's bank holidays up to the EU average of 12.

But the idea of a St David's Day bank holiday has been dismissed by former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy.

Statue of St David
St David is a key figure in Welsh history

Government sources said as recently as March this year: "The Assembly asked for this Bill last year. It was not in the last Queen's Speech and it is extremely unlikely that it will be in this year's Queen's Speech.

"Without the case being made positively by business, there is no prospect of the government legislating for it - we are not going to go to war with the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) over it."

Mr Morgan had been negotiating with Mr Murphy over the assembly proposal - AMs had already rejected the idea that a St David's Day holiday could replace one of the existing bank holidays.

A spokesman for new Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, said he would not be doing any interviews on the subject.

Plaid Cymru has seized on Mr Murphy's letter as proof that Mr Morgan has poor bargaining skills.

Peter Black AM
Peter Black: 'No real barrier or holiday'

Plaid's culture spokesman, Owen John Thomas, said: "Once again the Secretary of State for Wales reveals himself as London's representative in Wales rather than Wales' representative in London.

"This is another example of ineffective negotiation by the first minister and the secretary of state and is a slap in the face for Wales and the assembly.

"There was huge popular support for the campaign to make St David's Day an official holiday and all we get from the government are bureaucratic excuses."

Welsh Liberal Democrat communities spokesman, Peter Black, said: "The assembly was united in its view that St David's Day should be a bank holiday.

'Disappointed'

"It is not a great legislative issue and there is no real barrier to creating a new bank holiday in Wales.

"It is one more piece of evidence proving the need for the assembly to be given the power to determine its own affairs."

Mr Morgan said: "I know people will be disappointed St David's Day will not be a public holiday in Wales.

"The UK Government arrived at this decision after giving the assembly's request its full consideration.

"It's now up to the assembly to consider what other options we can all explore to give St David's Day even greater significance in promoting Welsh culture and Wales.

Pilgrims

"I want St David's Day to be a flagship day for Wales just as St Patrick's Day is in Ireland.

"It can be a wonderful way of celebrating the creativity and language of Wales in the UK and all around the world."

St David was born circa 542AD at Menevia, which is now called St David's.

He was the founder, abbot and bishop of the monastery and was responsible for much of the spread of Christianity in Wales.

His teachings drew pilgrims from Ireland and from Europe.

It is believed he died in 601AD.

See also:

19 Mar 02 | Wales
15 Apr 01 | Wales
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