POLITICS

MPs To Debate Holiday Firms 'Cashing In' On School Holidays

24/02/2014 12:21 GMT | Updated 24/02/2014 12:59 GMT

MPs are set to debate the impact of holiday firms' extra charges during school holidays on families after 170,000 people signed an e-petition calling for a cap on holiday price rises to stop them "cashing in".

John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP who proposed the debate, told HuffPostUK: "This is an issue that affects many hard working families. Some parents such as police, NHS workers, merchant seamen and others are not given a choice as to when they take holiday. The police could even be fired if they were fined for taking their children on holiday.

"Additionally Schedule 14 of the Deregulation Bill will enable greater flexibility in terms of term times. If we can stagger holidays on a sub-regional basis then the demand will be lower at peak times and hence the prices will be lower. Children are now being refused permission to go to family funerals. That does not seem right to me."

The debate comes after nearly 170,000 people signed an e-petition calling for action to stop firms "cashing in on school holidays", which was inspired by a "school holiday rant" that went viral on Facebook written on Paul Cookson.

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Cookson used his Facebook post to complain about being "ripped off" by holiday firms, using a picture to show how Centerparcs had raised its price of a £699 villa by £300 during the school holidays.

The e-petition read: "Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays.

"A break at home is not the same as getting away from it all where there isn't any house work or DIY to get done, instead focus is on family. It's time to stop the holiday companies cashing in on school holidays and let parents have some guilt free family time!

The government's response to the e-petition said there was "fierce competition" in the holiday market and firms sought to make a reasonable profit in peak periods to compensate for quiet periods in other parts of the year.

The response read: "Prices rises in peak periods are a reflection of the international competition holiday companies face for hotel accommodation and other services in destinations which are popular with consumers from many other countries and where there are limits to capacity."

Blogging on the Huffington Post UK, Travelzoo MD Richard Singer said: "Parents are being corralled into extortionate holiday prices - they can't take their children out of school and summer family deals are few and far between - it's something I call the Parent Trap."

However James Brown, partner at management consultants Simon Kucher & Partners, warned that capping the potential increases would see prices rise elsewhere.

"There would be no winners if a cap on holiday prices were introduced during school holidays. For the public, any government regulation restricting prices during half-term or school holidays could very likely lead to higher prices outside these dates, to allow companies to “re-coup” their lost profitability. Consequently, increased prices throughout the year would become the norm.

"A cap on holiday prices would impact the industry’s profitability, increasing the risk of insolvency. This in turn would be bad news for the public. Not only would it lead to unemployment but a more consolidated market would mean less competition and therefore less choice and more expensive holidays for consumers."