High Peak MP defends vote over free school meals

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High Peak MP Robert Largan has said ‘nobody wants to see any child go hungry’ after voting against a parliamentary motion to offer free school meals until Easter 2021.

On Wednesday evening MPs rejected the Labour motion by 322 votes to 261 - however five Conservative MPs rebelled and voted in favour of the proposal.

The motion came following a campaign by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to see free school meals offered during holidays extended.

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Speaking about the vote today the High Peak MP told how ‘as someone who went to my local comprehensive in Manchester this is an issue I take extremely seriously’.

High Peak MP Robert Largan. Photo: Richard Townshend PhotographyHigh Peak MP Robert Largan. Photo: Richard Townshend Photography
High Peak MP Robert Largan. Photo: Richard Townshend Photography

He said: “To be clear, the vote on Wednesday night was not a vote about whether we help the most vulnerable children or not.

“I completely accept that food poverty is an important issue and the Government has a responsibility to address it.”

However Robert added it was important to stress that ‘there are no changes to free school meals’.

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He said: “Free school meals continue to be served to over a million children every school day.

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"The free school meal voucher scheme was introduced as a temporary measure to provide support to children who qualify for free school meals while schools were closed due to the national lockdown.

“A few months ago I was one of the first Conservative MPs to call for the Government to listen to campaigners like Marcus Rashford and extend the voucher scheme over the summer holidays - given the unprecedented situation we faced.

“But we also need to remember that this was a temporary measure during lockdown.”

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The MP said he had met with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to discuss ways of providing more support for the most vulnerable children during school holidays.

He said: “I made it clear that if we were ever forced into another full lockdown - and I sincerely hope that we aren’t - then I believe the temporary free school meal voucher scheme would need to be reintroduced immediately.”

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The MP added: “I care deeply about tackling food poverty and will continue to fight for our area – but we need to do so in a targeted way."

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.