School Penalty Fines and Authorised Absence — [Mr David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:57 pm on 11th July 2016.

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Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon 4:57 pm, 11th July 2016

Absolutely. Many businesses in such resorts find themselves in that position. That feeds back into the point I made earlier: because the season is now so focused, families who run tourism businesses in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend have no choice. There is no way they can possibly go on holiday during the school holidays, so they have to request to take their children out of school, otherwise they will not be able to enjoy a holiday.

It is absolutely right that the Government have a duty to ensure that children have full academic attendance and a full school record. I am not arguing with that, but there must be some carrot and some stick. My fear is that, with the 2013 guidelines, the balance has shifted rather too much towards the stick approach, which I do not think is valuable or helpful.

Let me go off script for a moment. I am a bit of an old-fashioned Tory sort of boy, and I like less government. I like smaller government. I like government that does not just sit in Westminster bringing a clunking fist down rather hard on parents, families and working people who are just trying to do the right thing. I have an uneasy sense that the current regulation and policy are on the wrong side of that. I passionately believe that, as a Conservative Government, we should be helping hard-working people who occasionally have no choice but to take their children out of school. As in the case of my constituents, Mr and Mrs Short, they might do so not for a holiday but for a perfectly reasonable sporting endeavour. I am not sure how we have reached the point where, as a Government, we are saying, “We, centrally, know better than you.”