Northumberland MPs at odds over free schools meals

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan

North Northumberland’s MP has defended her decision to vote with the Government on an issue which has sparked a row over free school meals.

Labour has claimed that the Government is pressing ahead with a plan that will mean one million children could miss out on a hot meal through the introduction of a means test for those on Universal Credit to be eligible for free school meals for pupils in Year 3 and above.

Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck.

Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck.

For example, the Labour MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery, said: “The Conservative party cheered as they voted down the amendment and went ahead with the decision to take free school meals away from children whose families who are working hard just to make ends meet.

“This is an utterly despicable act and it is a truly shameful stain on the record of every MP who supported this cruel Government in its needless decision to plunge more families into poverty while allowing the super-rich to continue amassing and hoarding their wealth.

“I am furious at this decision and pledge to all of my constituents that I will continue to do everything I can to oppose this latest example of Tory attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”

However, Anne-Marie Treveylan, the Conservative MP for Berwick, said: “I am committed to ensuring that disadvantaged, young people are able to access a free nutritious meal at school. Contrary to the misinformation peddled by the Labour Party, the Government is increasing the number of disadvantaged children who are eligible for this. I have always believed in working together in politics to ensure that we help those most in need and give our children the best start in life.

“However, I find it extremely sad that Labour has chosen to spin this story with falsehoods and misinformation to try to score cheap political points. Their falsehoods were exposed online by Channel 4 FactCheck, but yet they continue with their campaign of misinformation.

“The facts are these: No child will lose their meals during the rollout of Universal Credit as a result of these changes; our plans mean an extra 50,000 children will be eligible for a nutritious meal at school by 2022; Labour’s claim that our changes could leave over a million children without this is deliberately misleading; since 2010, we have extended the availability for free school meals to disadvantaged students in further education and introduced universal infant free school meals. While Labour continues to play petty party politics, I will be working with the Government to help disadvantaged children and ensure that we continue to deliver free school meals in Northumberland and across the United Kingdom.”

The article by Channel 4’s FactCheck, mentioned above, concludes: ‘There’s some respectable maths behind Labour’s claim that a million children will lose out on free school meals after the government introduces a means test.

‘But they haven’t mentioned two key points:

‘No one who is currently eligible for free school meals under Universal Credit will lose their entitlement.

‘In fact, under Universal Credit, 50,000 more children will receive school meals by 2022 than would have done under the previous benefits system.

‘This is not a case of the Government taking free school meals from a million children who are currently receiving them; it’s about comparing two future, hypothetical scenarios. Both of them are more generous than the old benefits system.’