Posted: Thu 22nd Oct 2020

Flintshire MP votes down bid to have free school meals through the holidays for children in England

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 22nd, 2020

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Delyn MP Rob Roberts has taken to social media in a bid to explain his decision to vote down a motion to extend free school meals for kids in England over the holidays.

MPs voted to reject a Labour motion by 322 votes to 261 following a debate in the Commons.

Following an opposition day debate in the Commons last night, the UK government declined to support the proposal that would have the same level of support afforded to families as was provided over the summer break.

Closing the debate, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said the UK government has “tried to ensure that we continue to put the vulnerable first.

She said: “We really must consider, genuinely, what should be uniting us today. I am very conscious that Labour Members may think that theirs is the only way to approach this issue.

I say gently to them: recognise the support that has been given to the families that you represent; recognise the £9.3 billion in welfare alone, never mind the furlough income that has been there, and is continuing to help people.”

The UK government has been under pressure to provide support for families in England.

A petition started by Mr Rashford calling for the UK government to provide free school during term breaks has gathered over 300,000 signatures.

Following the vote, the Manchester United striker issued a statement, he said: “A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today.

“We must stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers – our views are being clouded by political affiliation.”

Child Poverty Action Group Chief Executive, Alison Garnham, said the country had plummeted to new lows “if in the midst of a pandemic we decide we can’t make sure children in the lowest income families have a nutritious meal in the middle of the day”.

“Tonight’s vote means more children going without and more desperately anxious parents – just as a coronavirus winter approaches,” she said.

“In short it ducks our moral responsibility to protect the country’s most vulnerable children.”

The Welsh government has already guaranteed free school meal provision for all school holidays up to and including Easter 2021, with £11m funding which was confirmed last week.

The move has been backed by Marcus Rashford saying he welcomed “the Welsh Government’s swift response to this urgent need in protecting the most vulnerable children across the country.”

Following last night’s vote, the Conservative MP for Delyn, Rob Roberts posted a 1038 word update on Facebook.

However instead of using his platform to explain to constituents his reasons for voting against the motion, he attacked the Labour party for bringing the Oppostion Day motion “which achieves nothing AT ALL of the substance, and is designed for the ONLY purpose of trying to make the Government look bad.”

He said the “Opposition Day is a win/win for the opposition’s comms department who go overtime with spreading disinformation.”

Mr Roberts did however cut and paste a response from fellow Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis which expanded on his reasons for voting the motion down.

The MP for Stoke on Trent North – a former teacher – said there is “evidence” the free school meal vouchers are being used to buy “alcohol, tobacco or on unhealthy food. So how would you ensure these vouchers are used correctly?”

He also said: “I do not believe just extending free school meals to over the school holidays is the proper long term solution to tackling food inequality and food poverty in this country (England).”

Mr Roberts signed off the Facebook post with his “standard caveat that any comments that cannot discuss with courtesy won’t last long.”

As of Wednesday morning, over 100 people responded to the post, most were critical of his decision to vote against the motion which ultimately affects school children in England.

In a further update today Mr Roberts said: “Yesterday on Facebook…

“Update on important campaign to assist women in labour to get more support during pregnancy rather than having to go through it alone – 0 posts.”

“Update regarding a load of information that has been updated on my website to help people during the upcoming lockdown restrictions – 0 posts.”

“Update to explain my support for a new piece of legislation which will stop people driving without the correct license plates to avoid detection and prosecution – couple of posts.”

“Update to explain that the Opposition is playing political games with Parliamentary procedure but that it would actually have had no substance or benefit to anyone – 100+ posts condemning me and my party in a couple of hours. I find it very interesting.”

Alyn and Deeside MP backed the motion.

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