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The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions

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Lobbying for no changes to school holiday

The Issue: The seasonal nature of many attractions, especially those outdoors, means that they are closed during periods of the year when it’s not economical to open. The tourism industry is at its best in the summer months – when families get time off and choose to enjoy it together.

In 2013, at a Spectator Magazine conference, the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove, made a speech in which he announced he wanted to abolish the traditional summer holiday, by shortening the break from six weeks to four. Weeks later, the Deregulation Bill was published, containing within it clauses that would make it possible to achieve this. The Government has defended the plans by saying they are giving every individual school the power to set its own unique term times, but it in January 2014 a source close to Michael Gove admitted “the government was encouraging schools to have longer days and terms.”

No impact assessment has been done on the clause’s effect on the industry and there is no strategy for how businesses affected by the change can be consulted, Additionally it will cause chaos for parents who have children at different schools.

Evidence from around the world shows that reducing the length of summer holidays is devastating for tourism, which is reliant on trade in peak periods to offset tougher winter months. Reducing this length – or moving holidays outside of the peak period – has a huge impact on these businesses and the local economies of areas that rely on tourism spending.

BALPPA is campaigning on behalf of its members to persuade Parliament not to pass legislation that hasn’t been considered properly; to this end we are continuing our engagement at all levels of Government, Parliament and the civil service.

The Current Status: The Deregulation Bill has completed its passage through the House of Commons, and it is currently in the House of Lords, where BALPPA is hoping to amend the legislation.

Throughout every stage of the bill BALPPA has been meeting with senior civil servants, writing to and meeting with ministers and shadow ministers, alongside ongoing engagement with Parliamentarians from all sides of the House

Prior to the bill’s second reading in the Lords, its most recent hurdle, BALPPA conducted an engagement campaign and spoke with a number of Lords. In the subsequent second reading debate, BALPPA’s concerns were raised by Lord Naseby and Lord Clement-Jones; it was then subsequently mentioned by opposition spokesperson Baroness Hayter in her summing up for Labour. After the debate BALPPA met with Lord Stevenson who is leading on the bill for the opposition.

Concurrently with our political activity we are running a media campaign and in August The Telegraph published a letter outlining BALPPA’s concern signed by some of the UK’s biggest attractions, including Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Thorpe Park and many others.

Prior to the Lords, we had a number of parliamentary questions tabled in the Commons. Tourism Minister Helen Grant MP responded to one such and notably admitted that an “assessment of the specific impact on tourism-related jobs has not been carried out.” We are pursuing this line of enquiry with the Regulatory Policy Committee and making parliamentarians aware of this fact.

BALPPA is also meeting with senior officials within the DfE to ensure that, if the bill does go through, there are guidelines in place to restrict the damage it will do.

The bill is currently in a period of consultation prior to the committee stage, and following that will have its third reading before going back to the Commons for final approval.

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