Cornish MPs have been speaking out against a ban on parents taking children out of school during term time.
Fifteen MPs spoke during a debate in Westminster Hall yesterday (Nov 26), and urged the Government to reconsider the changes to school term time holiday policy that was introduced in September 2013.
Led by Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, the debate was called after a petition asking for parents to be allowed to take their children out of school for up to two weeks received more than 120,000 signatures.
North Cornwall MP, Scott Mann, and St Ives member, Derek Thomas, joined Double to speak out against the policy which fines parents for taking children away on holiday during term time.
In his opening statement, Double said: “We have heard a great deal about ‘fairness’ in recent years. Sadly this policy is blatantly unfair to a number of groups of people.
“Firstly it is unfair to those who are unable to take holidays during holiday times.
“This includes many people who work in tourism. Many small tourism related businesses in Cornwall are too busy to allow staff to take holiday during the peak season. Many are owner-run businesses and have to make money while people are on holiday and cannot afford to close during the season.
“But not only those who work directly in tourism areas are affected, but also those who work in the public sector in tourist areas. As an example I know our local police have for many years restricted officers taking holidays during the peak season due to the increased demand on policing.
“So this policy effectively says to people who cannot take a holiday during the holiday season due to their work that they cannot have a family holiday. This to me seems completely unfair.”
The economic impact the policy was having was also highlighted during the debate, with tourism-related businesses reporting a significant drop in revenue in the shoulder months of May, June and September.
Mann said: “The current policy is hitting the Cornish economy quite hard. It is estimated that the West Country has lost £87 million year on year with Cornwall seeing a drop in visitors and revenue streams down by £44 million in 2014. We need to invest in the Cornish economy and ensure people remain in full employment.”
St Ives MP, Thomas, added: “We have seen a huge problem in Cornwall with this, which is partly to do with the interpretation with this legislation.
“This difference in interpretation is causing tension between schools and tension between families. I think it’s right that the Government provides some clear guidelines to school on what they actually intend through this legislation.
“The cost of holidays during the school holiday time are prohibited for many families. I come from one of the poorest areas in the country.
“Businesses in my constituency have closed because they are no longer able to run their business all year round. The impact on our local economy is considerable and I am sad that the Government are unable to look at that impact before they brought in this advice.”