'Void of humanity': Halifax MP blasts Tories vote against free meals to vulnerable children

Halifax MP Holly Lynch called the Conservatives decision to vote against extending free meals to vulnerable children during school holidays as 'void of humanity'.
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Tory MPs voted down Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford's proposal to extend free school meals across the half-terms and the Christmas holidays.

Tories voted down the motion, which was defeated by 322 votes to 261 in the House of Commons yesterday evening.

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Labour MP Ms Lynch said: "As an MP, the thought that children are going hungry in your town is something which haunts you.

Marcus RashfordMarcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford

"The Government had the opportunity to extend free school meals until next year, but said no, rejecting not just our proposals but all the hard work behind Marcus Rashford's campaign."

It comes after Business minister Paul Scully stunned Politics Live guests yesterday as he dismissed the campaign for England's free school meals scheme to be extended over the upcoming holidays, saying that children have been going hungry 'for years'.

He said: “We’ve had a situation where children are, have been going hungry under a Labour government for years.

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“What we’ve done, we’ve put a Universal Credit system in place which allows flexibility for people to go back to work and then topping up their incomes so they don’t have the cliff edge of the old benefits system that we saw under the previous Labour government.

Holly LynchHolly Lynch
Holly Lynch

Politics Live presenter Jo Coburn said: “Paul did you say that children have gone hungry for years? Is that acceptable?”

He said it wasn’t, which is why Tories are looking at 'how we can help parents over the long term rather than the kind of situation that Tulip is sorting out'.

"The lines used by Ministers to defend their inaction, including saying children had been going hungry for years, is void of any humanity at all," said Ms Lynch.

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The petition called for free school meals to be extended to every child from a household on Universal Credit or an equivalent benefit. A government-commissioned report published earlier this year said expanding the scheme in this way could see it reach an additional 1.5 million seven to 16-year-olds across England.

Halifax MPHalifax MP
Halifax MP

The petition also called for free meals to be provided throughout holidays as well as during term time. Finally, it says ‘healthy start’ vouchers – given to eligible women who are pregnant or those with young children to buy basic foods – should be raised from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and made available to all those on UC or a similar benefit.

The vote comes after more than 1,000 people in Calderdale's parliamentary constituencies signed a petition to tackle food poverty spearheaded by Rashford

Rashford said on Twitter in response: "Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics and let's focus on the reality.

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

The footballer has been campaigning to have the scheme extended after his efforts earlier in the coronavirus crisis saw the government U-turn to provide free school meals to eligible children during the summer holidays.

Labour's analysis showed nearly one million children living in areas that are subject to tier 2 and tier 3 coronavirus restrictions are set to lose access to free school meals over the upcoming holidays.

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker sided with the Conservatives against the footballer's bid to support vulnerable children.

Marcus Rashford's full letter can be found here.