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Devon Tories vote against free school meals

October 21, 2020 8:42 PM

boy getting school dinnerOnly one of Devon's Conservative MPs voted on Wednesday to extend free school meals over half term and the Christmas holiday.

Anne-Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, was the only Conservative who supported an Opposition Day motion from Labour to extend free school meals to children from lower-income families until Easter.

Neil Parish didn't vote, but all the others followed the government line and voted against the motion.

Footballer Marcus Rashford, who had forced the government into a U-turn on free school meals over the summer holidays, is campaigning for the provision to be extended, but so far the government has refused to commit to do so.

Tonight it appeared they have no intention of helping ensure no children go hungry this winter.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper talked of the eye-watering sums of money that the government has already handed out in various forms due to the pandemic. She went on to say:

"But I simply do not understand why the government draws the red line at hungry children. I feel ashamed to be an MP today, and I feel ashamed of this debate. Because while we throw mud at each other from the security of these plush green benches there are millions of families who don't know where they're going to find the 30 or 40 quid to feed their kids next week in half term and they've got no idea at all where the money is going to come from to feed their kids at Christmas."

The only MPs to vote against the motion were Conservatives, though 37 of their members did not vote, including Parish. Morris was one of only five Conservatives to support, with Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow, arguing that it was a 'no-brainer', at least until the end of the pandemic.

Rashford had challenged the Prime Minister on Saturday to honour his election pledge and introduce a comprehensive package to end child hunger. He called for the end of the two-child cap on Universal Credit and an increase in the value of healthy eating vouchers for pregnant mothers.

An online petition started by Rashford has gathered over 300,000 signatures, demanding urgent action to stop children going hungry. His petition followed a statement from No.10 the previous week, saying "it's not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays".

The Liberal Democrat Education Minister in Wales, Kirsty Williams, has guaranteed that eligible Welsh school children will receive free school meals in school holidays until Easter next year, and Scotland followed suit.

"Why should children in England go hungry when children in Scotland and Wales will have access to support in the coming holidays?" said Cooper.