Milton Keynes' Conservative MPs vote against free school meals for children over winter period

Milton Keynes' Conservative MPs voted against free school meals for children over the winter period

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 11:37 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 3:40 pm

On Wednesday evening (October 21), MPs rejected Labour's motion to provide free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021 by 322 votes to 261.

Ben Everitt, Conservative MP for Milton Keynes North, and Iain Stewart, Conservative MP for Milton Keynes South, both voted against the motion.

Milton Keynes North currently sits at 350th place out of 533 places in the south east, with 533rd place being least deprived and one being the most deprived.

Marcus Rashford

Using the same metric, Milton Keynes South sits in 281st place out of 533, according to the government's index of deprived areas.

And, according to new research by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, 9,226 children in Milton Keynes North (31 per cent) were in poverty in 2018/2019, and 9,717 children were in poverty in Milton Keynes South (30 per cent) in 2018/2019.

The motion has gained popularity partly due to Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign, where he successfully lobbied the government into providing children with free school meals over the summer holidays.

The Manchester United and England footballer launched another campaign last week to extend free school meals across the coming holidays and to more children, with more than a thousand Milton Keynes residents signing his petition.

The star sportsman urged politicians to back the vote, tweeting that if “your MP doesn’t deem providing vulnerable children with vital food resources a priority then you must ask yourself why”.

However, a government spokesperson responded to the petition, which gained hundreds of thousands of signatures, saying: “It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays. We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, said in the House of Commons last night: "They [school meals] are an essential part of our education system, supporting 1.4 million students from the lowest-income families to learn and to achieve in the classroom.

"I think it is fair to say that Members on both sides of the House are united in their commitment to drive out poverty and to make sure that children do not go hungry. We will do everything we can to support families and help them to do well and to succeed.

"Supporting those on lower incomes and vulnerable families is very much at the heart of the Government’s response. I recognise and understand the strength of feeling around this issue, both within this House and more widely."

Mr Williamson also voted against the motion.

Another MP said last night: "The fact that we need to have this debate is a sign of repeated failures on the part of the Government—a failure of compassion, a failure of competence, not recognising the challenges that parents face and not giving them the support they need to provide for their children."

Both Mr Everitt and Mr Stewart have been contacted for comment.