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Croydon South MP accuses Labour of ‘political point scoring’ over free school meals

Croydon South MP Chris Philp has accused Labour of using the recent vote on providing children with free school meals during the holidays to ‘score political points’.

Croydon resident, Lauren Michael, published an email in which Philp described the vote as non-legally binding, or a piece of legislation.

She described the response as an embarrassment and commented: “This is the local MP for Croydon who genuinely has likened the fight for free school meals by the Labour Party as a ploy to score political points.

“They can’t see that this is a genuine issue for so many families.”

Philp said: “Throughout this pandemic, the Government has been taking difficult decisions to help deal with the virus while Labour sit on the sidelines and try to score cheap political points.

“This vote was just another example of this.”

Research published by the Food Foundation has shown that as many as 900,000 more children have sought free school meals, on top of the 1.4 million who were already claiming, as Covid-19 continues to impact family incomes.

However, the Croydon South MP did acknowledge the importance of offering children free school meals during school holidays.

He said: “I welcome the action that was taken to ensure that eligible children were still able to get free school meals during the period of partial school closures and over the summer holidays.

“More must of course be done to help those who need it most, but this duty should not be placed on schools, but should instead be handled by the UK’s welfare system.

“But 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 are aimed at providing healthy meals for children in school to ensure disadvantaged students can learn to the best of their ability.

“A wide range of support is already available to help families, such as the £9 million summer holiday activities and food programme.”

MPs voted against Labour’s motion to extend free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021, by 322 votes to 261.

Only five Convservative MPs voted in favour, while 318 voted against it, giving the Government a majority of 61.

In Croydon and across the capital, many businesses have come together to provide free meals, inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign and petition.

Croydon also became one of 28 London boroughs to put in place measures to ensure children who normally receive free school meals would be fed over the half-term holiday.

Philp did not respond to a request for comment. 

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