Why local MPs voted for or against free school meals

Why local MPs voted for or against free school meals

Why local MPs voted for or against free school meals

After a petition to support vulnerable children by extending Free School Meals scheme, a vote was held in the House of Commons earlier this week.

The motion was defeated with 321 votes against the motion to 261 supporting it.

If approved, the initiative led by footballer Marcus Rashford MBE would have been extended during the school holidays until Easter 2021.

It would have seen households with vulnerable children being given food vouchers to cover the costs of providing lunches while children at home.

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers voted against the Labour motion to extend the programme, along with the majority of his party.

Among the reasons cited, Vickers said:

“The schools are open now, so we should be running as normal when it comes to the free school meals policy, which doesn’t normally support parents through school holidays.

“I support free school meals and the policy that has existed for many years, I think it is very important and makes a big difference to vulnerable children and their families.

“The government is not extending it because schools are open and, in our eyes, things should continue as normal.”

Just five Conservative MPs voted for the motion, including Scunthorpe MP Holly Mumby Croft.
Discussing the decision, which received an overwhelming amount of support from her constituency, she said:

“Over recent months I have worked with local headteachers, charities and colleagues in Parliament to push for greater support for families and children.

“Yesterday I made the difficult decision to ‘rebel’ and vote for the opposition motion calling on the government to continue providing free school meals support during school holidays, until Easter 2021.

“Having lobbied the government hard for the establishment of the “Covid Summer Food Fund”, and having heard feedback from constituents, I am very well aware of the flaws of the voucher system.

“However, given the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, I believe that we should have put in place a temporary, albeit imperfect solution to run until Easter 2021.

“This would have allowed time for further discussion to take place on a longer term solution.”

Meanwhile, Grimsby MP Lia Nici abstained from the vote.

“If I had been there I would have voted against the government – I would have voted for the free school meals,” she said.

Overwhelmingly, the public supported the extension of the free school meals scheme, with many expressing disappointment in their local MPs.

However, some feel the issue of food poverty is the result of poor budgeting.

One local wrote:

“If the parents can afford mobile contracts, tv subscriptions, etc. then they can afford to feed their own children.”

Another added:

“If you can’t afford to keep them, don’t create them. Everyone gets family allowance, so what that’s supposed to pay for?

“Why are the tax payers expected to bale them out?”

Others have suggested the vote simply fell victim to party politics.

Following the vote, Marcus Rashford tweeted:

“Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics, and let’s focus on the reality. A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today.

“We must stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers. Our views are being clouded by political affiliation. This is not politics, this is humanity.”

What do you think – should it be the governments responsibility to ensure vulnerable children are fed over the school holidays?