ALL three MPs in the Salisbury and district area voted against extending the free school meals scheme. 

England football star Marcus Rashford’s bid to extend free school meals over the holidays was dealt a blow after MPs voted against the measure.

The Manchester United player told politicians to “stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers” as he warned a “significant number” of children will go to bed hungry and “feeling like they do not matter” because of comments on Wednesday.

He called on people to “unite” to protect the most vulnerable children, adding: “For as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”

He released the statement after Labour’s motion, which called for the scheme to be extended over school holidays until Easter 2021, was defeated by 261 votes to 322 – majority 61.

Salisbury Journal: John GlenJohn Glen

MP for Salisbury, John Glen, said he is confident of the government's "continued commitment to help the poorest and most vulnerable members of society during this time".

Mr Glen added: "This vote does not undermine the significant additional provision of support for children and families that has been made during this crisis.

"I appreciate the immense difficulties posed by coronavirus, and that the most vulnerable in society have faced even greater challenges. Eradicating child poverty is an absolute priority, and I firmly believe no child should grow up in an environment that limits their potential. 

"This is why I am pleased that many steps have been taken to increase benefits, put money into the pockets of low-paid workers, and to support families through the pandemic. One of these steps was the government’s decision to expand the eligibility criteria for free school meals, and to provide free school meals throughout the partial closure of schools, and during the 6-week summer holiday. 

"However, provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only and there is no requirement for schools to continue this provision during school holidays. Free school meals are not a general welfare measure and we are already providing a range of other measures to support families.”

Salisbury Journal: Danny KrugerDanny Kruger

In a post on his website, MP for Devizes Danny Kruger said he had received emails criticising his decision to vote against Labour's motion, with one calling him "cruel and heartless". 

Mr Kruger says that 'Opposition day' votes such as this one are "designed purely and simply to stir up a storm of public protest against the government". 

He added: "Under pressure from the footballer Marcus Rashford, the government extended the voucher scheme through the summer holidays. It ended when children returned to school in September. Now Labour are trying to revive the scheme for half term. 

"In the debate yesterday Labour were unable to say when they thought the scheme should end. Should it run over Christmas? Next half term, the Easter holidays, next summer? The logic of Labour’s motion - hardly denied by them - is that the government should give supermarket vouchers to families on benefits forever. 

"Surely there is a better way to support low-income families? One of the unsung successes of this terrible year has been the Universal Credit system, which replaced the previous complicated, paper-based system of benefits. Three million people have enrolled on UC since the pandemic struck and the system has coped without a hitch." 

To read Mr Kruger's post in full, click here

MP for New Forest West, Sir Desmond Swayne, also voted 'No'.

He said: "No meals are being taken from those who had them: free school meals are as described; meals provided to children who qualify whilst they are at school. It has never been any government’s policy -irrespective of political party- to take from parents the responsibility for feeding their children and handing it to the state.

"Exceptionally, provision was maintained over the summer because schools had been closed, placing an additional burden on straightened parents that they would not normally have had to bear. (Eligible families received £380 million meal vouchers while schools were partially closed.)  

"The proper way to address poverty is not to provide  free lunches to children, but to empower their parents by tackling their poverty at source, by increasing their income.
Accordingly, Universal Credit has, in response to Coronavirus, been increased by £1,040 this year. In addition, between 2015-16 and 2019-20  1.7  million people were taken out of paying income tax altogether, as a tax cut for 32 million people in total took effect when the personal tax allowance was raised to  £12,500.

"Furthermore, the adult national minimum wage raised to £8.72. In all, in response to Covid-19,  £53 billion has been spent on income protection schemes and £9.3 billion on additional welfare payments. 

"These are the proper ways to treat those on low incomes with dignity, allowing them to budget according to their family circumstance rather than issuing a voucher for a lunch much in the way that claimants are demeaned in the USA by being issued with food stamps."

MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare, did not vote.