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‘We misjudged the mood’ - Norfolk Tory MP calls for government u-turn on free school meal vote

PUBLISHED: 12:49 27 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:18 27 October 2020

George Freeman MP has released a statement following last week's free school meal vote. Picture: Ian Burt

George Freeman MP has released a statement following last week's free school meal vote. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

A Norfolk MP has called for a u-turn on the decision not to extend free school meals into the half-term holiday - and said the government needs to admit it “misjudged the mood”.

Conservative MP George Freeman, for Mid Norfolk, has joined a growing list of MPs to call for his party to provide support for families over the school holidays.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said on Monday the scheme would not be extended, despite public outcry following the motion’s defeat last Thursday by 61 votes.

The campaign has been led by Manchester United player Marcus Rashford and has seen dozens of Norfolk and Waveney businesses and organisations offering to provide meals to families needing support during the October half-term which began today.

In a 972-word statement, posted to social media, Mr Freeman said: “No child should ever go hungry in Britain. Ensuring that is a test of our collective decency and humanity.

“We are living through a national crisis. With so many people suffering as a result of this crisis, all of us want to make sure the most vulnerable are protected.”

He stated in the letter as with every opposition motion attacking the government there was a three line whip to vote against it.

Mr Freeman said: “I raised with ministers the importance of ensuring proper support for the most vulnerable children at risk of food poverty.”

Listing the undertakings the government would take to support children, Mr Freeman said he used his proxy vote to go by the three line whip to vote against the motion last week.

The letter said: “With hindsight I think that was a mistake. Last week was not a moment for tribal political games in Parliament. We should have had a proper debate about how best to target support quickly to the most in need.”

In a bullet-pointed section, he called for the government to:

- Accept we misjudged the mood and got this wrong last week

- Thank Marcus Rashford for his work, and thank the many businesses and residents providing food to local foodbanks

- Commit to funding free school meals this half term and through to Easter

- And continue to ensure that all children and families are supported through the £9bn of extra funding for the benefits system, local council support and the new school fund.

He added that tensions have been high but attacks on he and other MPs have been “excessive and unacceptable”.


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