August 10: Holiday fines not the answer

Travel industry must do more

THE fact that more than 20,000 fines were dished out to parents in Yorkshire for taking their children on holidays during term time last year is disturbing.

It is not only the sheer numbers involved that is a cause for concern, but also the fact that they have risen so dramatically.

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Figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post show that the number of fixed penalties is almost five times higher than the number handed out before the Government’s rule change was introduced in 2013.

Parents should not as a matter of course take their children out of school just so that they can go away on holiday. But equally, hitting hard-working families with what they see as a “holiday tax” is not the answer.

For some parents the only way they can afford a holiday is to go during term time, even though they know it risks harming their children’s educational progress.

Previously, schools had greater discretion, meaning that two week holidays in term time could be permitted.

But tougher rules brought in two years ago stated that headteachers should only approve absences in “exceptional circumstances”.

This needs to be re-examined. The Department for Education insists its tough approach has improved school attendance figures, but as a deterrent it is flawed.

The mark-up of holiday prices once the schools break up has long been a source of annoyance for parents who understandably feel they are being taken advantage of.

Families should not have to routinely see holiday prices treble overnight and pressure needs to be put on the travel industry to stop these massive price hikes.

Holiday companies need to be able to make a profit but not at the expense of parents.

The Government needs to look again at the problem because its current solution is not working.

Leadership contest in meltdown

THE Labour Party’s search for a new leader was supposed to galvanise its members, but instead the leadership contest is in danger of turning the party in on itself.

When Jeremy Corbyn announced his candidacy for Labour’s top job in June there was little fanfare. He was arguably the least well known of the candidates and was given little chance of winning.

But in recent weeks the momentum behind Mr Corbyn’s campaign has grown while his rivals have struggled to get their messages across.

His left-wing views have made eye-catching headlines and, as with other strident anti-austerity voices across Europe, have chimed with significant numbers of Labour activists who feel that the party needs to be more radical.

At the weekend, Mr Corbyn suggested he was interested in bringing back the Labour Party’s commitment to nationalising industry, something that will have gone down well with many rank and file members.

However, such is the level of concern over the conduct of the leadership race that there are now calls for the contest to be suspended.

Among those that have spoken out is Barry Sheerman, Labour’s long-serving Huddersfield MP, who described the contest to replace Ed Miliband as being in “meltdown” following the offer to give non-members a vote in return for paying £3.

It is a sorry state of affairs and for the sake of British politics the Labour Party needs to get its act together in order to fulfil its role as an effective opposition.

This whole debate was supposed to strengthen the Labour Party’s appeal to voters, not weaken it.

Terror threat defiance

THE Metropolitan Police is right to encourage people to attend celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, despite claims that jihadists are planning a terrorist attack.

According to reports, “Islamic State” commanders from Syria plan to explode a bomb in central London and assassinate the Queen during events to mark VJ Day – Victory over Japan – next weekend, when thousands of people are expected in the capital.

We must not be cowed by the threat of terrorism, troubling though it is. By not commemorating this anniversary we are handing the terrorists a propaganda victory.

VJ Day marked the end of nearly six, long years of war. Those who fought, and in some cases died, for their country did so in order that they and future generations would be free from tyranny.

Free from the kind of tyranny that IS and all other terrorist organisations would like to impose upon us.