SOMERSET MPs were among those who voted against extending free school meals through the coming holidays for those qualified to receive them.

A motion to extend the service, spearheaded by Premiership footballer Marcus Rashford, was defeated in the Commons yesterday by 322 votes to 261 - a majority of 61.

A total of five Conservative MPs voted in support of the motion, going against their party line.

However, no Somerset MPs were among them.

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), David Warburton (Somerton and Frome), Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) and John Penrose (Weston super Mare) all voted against the motion.

Wells MP James Heappey did not vote.

The motion, put forward by the Labour Party, proposed the government's free school meals system - which sees children from qualifying families receive free meals each day - be extended across the coming holidays.

In the summer, the scheme was extended after a Government u-turn following a campaign again led by Manchester United star Rashford.

But this time, it was unsuccessful.

Yeovil Express:

And Opposition MPs lambasted those who voted against the move.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the Conservatives had voted to let the more than 1.4 million children eligible for free school meals go hungry through the holidays.

“Tonight I voted to feed our country’s vulnerable and needy children. The Tories voted to let them go hungry,” she tweeted, adding: “I voted for workers facing hardship in areas under lockdown to get 80% of their incomes. The Tories voted against it. That’s all you need to know.”


HOW THE SOMERSET MPs VOTED ON THE FREE SCHOOL MEALS MOTION:

  • Rebecca Pow (Conservative, Taunton Deane): AGAINST
  • Ian Liddell-Grainger (Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset): AGAINST
  • Marcus Fysh (Conservative, Yeovil): AGAINST
  • David Warburton (Conservative, Somerton and Frome): AGAINST
  • John Penrose (Conservative, Weston super Mare): AGAINST
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative, North East Somerset): AGAINST
  • James Heappey (Wells): DID NOT VOTE

The Liberal Democrats’ health and social care spokeswoman Munira Wilson tweeted: “It would be hugely unjust for this Govt to allow children to go hungry this winter, particularly in the middle of a pandemic. 

"I urged the Govt to follow the lead of Lib Dem Edu Minister Kirsty Williams in Wales by extending #FreeSchoolMeals over the school holidays."

Earlier, some Conservative MPs defended the decision.

Yeovil Express:

MP for Nottingham, Ben Bradley, cited footballer Rashford in a tweet.

“Gov has lots of responsibilities: supporting the vulnerable, helping people to help themselves, balancing the books," he said.

“Not as simple as you to make out Marcus. Extending FSM to sch hols passes responsibility for feeding kids away from parents, to the State. It increases dependency.”

Rashford tweeted back: “Ben, the economy already pays a high price for child hunger. If children were fed properly you would increase educational attainment and boost life chances. @KelloggsUKI calculated we would spend at least £5.2M a year on lost teaching hours as teachers are caring for hungry kids.

“And for a more humane response, since March, 32% of families have suffered a drop in income. Nearly 1 million have fallen off the payroll. This is not dependency, this a cry for help. There are no jobs!! 250% increase in food poverty and rising. Nobody said this was simple…”