Opposition Day Debate – Free School Meals

On Wednesday 21 October 2020, HM Opposition held the first of two Opposition Day Debates, on the provision of free school meals over the holidays.

HM Opposition Labour Party brought forward a vote on a motion which called for free school meals to be extended over every school holiday between the October half term and Easter 2021. I was a primary signatory of this motion, which read:

“That this House calls on the Government to continue directly funding provision of free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent over a million children going hungry during this crisis.”

The Government voted against this motion and it was defeated by 266 ayes to 321 noes. I am alarmed at the Government’s failure to support this request to provide free school meals for children in need. In Walsall South, over five thousand children would be eligible for free school meals over the school holidays.

Over the summer, the Government listened to pressure from Labour and committed to providing free school meals over the summer holidays. However, this week the Government decided to vote against free school meals over the holidays during what could be one of the toughest winters in a generation.

In the months ahead, more families will be at risk of unemployment – with some forecasts of unemployment at 10% – making other forms of support such as free school meals more important to helping families make ends meet. 

The Welsh Labour Government has already made this commitment, and will provide free school meals in all school holidays until Easter next year.

I pay tribute to Marcus Rashford and all who have campaigned on this important issue. We will continue our campaign to prevent needless child hunger this winter and the Government must reconsider.