Selected Quotes: The Free School Meals Debate 21st October 2020

Kate Green (Lab)

More than 1.4 million children benefit from free school meals. Nearly 900,000 eligible children live in areas now subject to tier 2 and tier 3 covid restrictions. Their families face an upcoming furlough cliff-edge, an inadequate replacement system and the deep fear of growing unemployment. So the question for Members on the Government Benches is simple: are they absolutely confident that support is adequate and that no child in their constituencies will go hungry?”

Tim Farron (LibDem)

“Does she agree that the holiday periods are always a difficulty—whether or not there is a pandemic—for those children from families on free school meals? They always need that support, and that should be something we are doing irrespective of the pandemic.”

Gavin Williamson (Con) (Secretary of State for Education)

In a brief speech he didn’t mention Free School Meals at all but reiterated comments about welfare reforms (Universal Credit). But he did congratulate the voluntary sectors efforts.

[Much later]

“Now that pupils are back in schools, kitchens are open once again to provide healthy, nutritious meals to all children—including those eligible for free school meals—aiding their academic performance, and supporting attendance and engagement. We have also set out in guidance information for schools and caterers to support free school meal pupils who are self-isolating, through the provision of food parcels to those children.”

A reply to a Conservative MP

“…free school meals have only ever been intended to provide support during term-time periods while children are engaging in activity and learning.”

Paul Maynard (Con)

“….I have some 6,000 pupils reliant on free school meals in my constituency, and I am deeply disappointed by the decision that has been taken at the moment. Will he commit to pushing in the comprehensive spending review for a much more strategic approach that rolls out the school holiday activity fund nationwide—a universal approach to tackling child poverty that does not just stigmatise those on free school meals?”

Tanmanjeet Dhesi (Lab)

“Food bank usage is predicted to be 61% higher this coming winter than it was last winter. That is a mere prediction. It will take a lot more than free school meals to sort out this poverty crisis, but does the Secretary of State agree that that is the least we can do to help support struggling families?”

Neil Parish (Con)

“Does the Secretary of State accept that some of these families are very challenged, and that if we give them money, it does not necessarily get to food for children…..No, it does not. Therefore, I think school meal vouchers are a good way of getting food out to those families that really need it, so will he re-look at meal vouchers for Christmas?”

Brendan O’Hara (SNP)

“….it is remarkable that, in the 21st century, at a time like this, in one of the richest countries in the world, we are even having to debate this or to ask the Government to fund free school meals over the school holiday period to prevent 1.5 million of the poorest and most vulnerable children in England from going hungry.”….. “Sadly, that compassion was not replicated in the Government’s response to the petition reaching 300,000 signatures. Their spokesperson said:

“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.”

Robert Halfon (Con)

“Between January and September 2020, the Harlow food bank gave out 118 tonnes of food—nearly double the tonnage of last year—and nationally, 32% of households have experienced a drop in income since late March. An estimated 1.9 million children have been affected by food insecurity in the same period, according to the Food Foundation, and 2% of adults said they had skipped meals entirely. That is only set to continue.”

Neil Coyle (Lab)

“When Labour left office [2010], 40,000 were using food banks, last year it was 1.4 million people, 7,000 of whom were in Southwark, including hundreds of working people.”

Brendan Clark-Smith (Con)

“Where is the slick PR campaign encouraging absent parents to take some responsibility for their children? I do not believe in nationalising children. Instead, we need to get back to the idea of taking responsibility.”

Daisy Cooper (LibDem)

“The Secretary of State gave us a spectacular display of number theatre: millions for this, millions for that, billions for this, billions for that. There is no doubt that the Government are facing unprecedented demands for money from all sorts of directions, but I simply do not understand why they draw the red line at hungry children.”

David Simmons (Con)

“What does it say about the Opposition’s priorities that all their interests are simply swept aside in favour of spending taxpayers’ money to curry favour with celebrity status [Marcus Rashford], wealth and power?”

Dr Kieran Mullan (Con)

“I ask high-profile campaigners on this issue to urge their hundreds of thousands of social media followers, who are signing petitions and retweeting, to put an equal amount of energy into encouraging their friends and family to volunteer for charities, to mentor young people, to help parents who are struggling and to donate money to local organisations to fight poverty.”

Kevin Hollinrake (Con)

“….’it is the Government’s job to make sure children do not go hungry’. I differ there, and I think lots of my constituents differ there too, because they would be appalled by the prospect of the Government interfering in their daily lives to make sure their children did not go hungry.”

Sam Tarry (Lab)

“Before the covid crisis, more than 4,000 children were eligible for free school meals in my constituency. After the pandemic hit, that figure more than doubled, with many now reliant on welfare support just to make ends meet.”

Mary Kelly Foy (Lab)

“….Government’s initial U-turn on free school meals was a case of them having to be embarrassed into feeding hungry children. Well, it looks like the Conservatives have moved beyond that. They truly have no shame. What astounds me most about this Government’s approach is the complete lack of responsibility. They are acting like child poverty is purely the fault of the parents and ignoring the leading cause of child poverty: Tory Governments.”

Theresa Coffey (Con) Secretary of State Work and Pensions

“We are in a situation where the Government have firmly stood behind the most vulnerable children and people in the country, and I am very proud of our Government for doing that.”

“Nearly a million pensioners are getting £140 off their energy bills later this year without lifting a finger; that is what we are doing to help people.”

“More people have come off the furlough scheme and are now back in work—they can work from home or go to work. Schools are open. The NHS is treating many more people, not just the people with coronavirus. So we need to encourage life to continue as it is.”


All quotations are taken from the Hansard report of the debate 21st October 2020

Tag Parliamentary debate Free School Meals, Marcus Rashford, Local government finance,

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4 Responses to Selected Quotes: The Free School Meals Debate 21st October 2020

  1. Pingback: George Osborne, The Age of Austerity and Children | Odeboyz's Blog

  2. Pingback: Marcus Rashford and the Free School Meals Debate | Odeboyz's Blog

  3. Pingback: Havering and Free School Meals over Christmas – Politics in Havering

  4. Pingback: Andrew Rosindell and the Free School Meals Debate, 21st October, 2020 – Politics in Havering

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