Why I voted against free school meals for children over the holidays - Leeds MP Alec Shelbrooke

Leeds MP Alec Shelbrooke has revealed why he voted against free school meals for children over the school holidays.

By Alex Evans
Friday, 23rd October 2020, 11:43 am
Updated Friday, 23rd October 2020, 5:18 pm
Leeds MP Alec Shelbrooke
Leeds MP Alec Shelbrooke

The government took a vote on a motion which, if approved, would have seen free school meals for kids extended through the holidays.

The vote in the House of Commons followed a campaign by England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.

A motion put forward by the Labour party which called for free school meals to be extended over school holidays until Easter 2021 was defeated by 261 votes to 322 – majority 61 - in the Commons on Wednesday, October 21.

Marcus Rashford vowed to continue with his free school meals campaign

Leeds Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke was one of several Yorkshire MPs to vote against the motion.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post what his reasons were.

He said: “This Conservative Government has increased the basic Universal Credit payment by over £1,100 to assist low-paid families throughout the pandemic.

"Labour’s motion was to give £90 worth of food vouchers to be administered by schools who are already under pressure. I believe families are best supported by giving more money through the welfare system instead of adding additional administrative burden to schools”.

Five of Leeds' eight MPs voted in favour of the motion including; Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn, Leeds East MP Richard Burgon, Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel and Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.

Rachel Reeves, MP for Leeds West added that "sink-or-swim" plans for support could leave more than one million children at risk of going hungry over the school holidays and urged the Prime Minister to re-think.

Following the vote, Manchester United forward Rashford vowed to continue campaigning, writing on Twitter: “For as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”

Pubs and restaurants step forward to fill the gap

Cafes, pubs and restaurants across the country have stepped up to offer free school meals for local children during half term, after MPs rejected the campaign started by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Schoolchildren aged between four and sixteen will be able to get a free chicken or vegetable biryani from the Chadwick Street restaurant from Saturday October 24 until Sunday, November 1.

The hours to pick up the food are between 5pm and 6pm.

Mumtaz asks that children under 12 come with an adult.

Posting on Facebook, a Mumtaz spokesman said: "We will help if the MP's wont. Put politics to the side.

"No child should go hungry during half-term.

"We are doing this to do our part to support young children and families who truly need support.

"We are all struggling but sometimes the answer is to be be grateful and help more."

Mumtaz, which was founded in Great Horton Road in Bradford back in 1979, is now urging other Leeds businesses to follow suit and offer free meals this half term.

The co-owner of Mumtaz, Asad Arif, said: "This is NOT about politics. This is about doing our part to help.

"If you are a business owner, please do consider doing this yourself. Good only begets good.

"We have to help each other during these very difficult times.”