High Peak MP defends vote over free school meals

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.

Saturday, 24th October 2020, 7:00 am

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.

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 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’.

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.”

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.”

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.