Labour to force vote on Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign

The Labour Party has called for backbench Conservative MPs to “defy Boris Johnson” and vote to support Marcus Rashford’s campaign for the extension of free school meals over the holidays.

A vote on the matter is set to take place in parliament on Wednesday.

It comes after the Wythenshawe-born Manchester United and England star launched an online petition last week in which he urged the government to make three commitments to support vulnerable children as part of the ongoing #endchildfoodpoverty campaign.

The campaign is supported by the Child Food Poverty Task Force – which was formed by Rashford – as well as a further 20 charities and key names in the food industry.

Upon the launch of the petition last week, Rashford said: “With the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, I am calling for government to allocate money to:

  • Expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit 
  • Provide meals & activities during all holidays 
  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week, and expand the scheme.”

However, these calls were met with rejection by No. 10, as the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson stated that the campaign would not be supported as “we’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils”.

They continued: “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.”

Marcus Rashford then responded saying: “This is not going anytime soon and neither am I…”

Now, MP Tulip Siddiq – who is also Labour’s Shadow Children and Early Years Minister – has written to every backbench Conservative MP asking them to support Labour’s proposal, which would “provide additional support to over 1.4 million children in every school holiday until Easter”.

Speaking on the release of the proposal, Siddiq said: “Families across the country are worrying about how to make ends meet, but the Prime Minister is ruling out giving over a million children food support over the holidays.

“Every Conservative MP now has an opportunity to make it clear that they will support the families in their constituency who are worrying about how they will put food on the table in the weeks ahead.”

In the letter, she expresses how “deeply disappointed” she is to learn of the Prime Minister’s spokesperson’s rejection this proposal.

The letter continues: “I believe that it is essential that the government changes course as a matter of urgency so that children do not have to go without food over the holidays. I am sure you recognise that free school meals are an important means of support for families across your constituency, many of whom will be worrying about how they put food on the table over the half-term and Christmas holidays.”

Labour also confirmed via the letter that: “If the government does not urgently U-turn, we will force a vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday.”

You can read Labour’s statement in full ahead of the vote in parliament here.

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