PARENTS of younger children should be given more freedom to go on holiday during term time, a Hampshire MP said.

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester and Chandler's Ford, broke ranks to call for ultra-strict rules to be relaxed for children aged six and under.

The Conservative MP criticised his own Government for “meddling in this area”, by banning headteachers from allowing any breaks outside the allotted school holidays.

Mr Brine said: “Although we know that school attendance is important, we also know that parents are not daft.

“A constituent of mine, who is a governor at a primary school in Winchester, said to me that the changes to the rules are an insult to his intelligence and discretion – he would never dream of taking a child out of school at a crucial time.

“I find it perplexing that a Conservative Government are meddling in this area full stop, but we should think especially about the early years - reception and Year 1.

“Do we really need to come down on headteachers and question their integrity in the way that we appear to be doing?”

The comments come amid growing public anger about the soaring cost of going away during the school holidays, with firms accused of profiteering.

More than 100,000 people signed an e-petition – calling for a cap on increases compared with term times – triggering a Commons debate.

In response, Education Secretary Michael Gove criticised holiday companies which ramped up their prices – urging them to “look in the mirror”.

However, Mr Gove strongly defended new guidelines, issued last year, that removed the discretion for heads to allow a maximum of ten days absence during the school year.

And he said: “It’s wrong to take children out of school when they should be at school because it’s important that we make sure that children learn.”

Instead, the Government has argued the solution is the new power for individual schools to stage holidays at different times.

Mr Gove added: “Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times.”

Academies have the power to set their own term dates, but the Education Secretary said he wanted all schools to have the same flexibility.