Labour has made it clear that it will force another Commons vote on the extension of free school meals over the holidays if the government does not change its policy before the Christmas recess.

In a letter to Gavin Williamson, Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said “Labour will not give up on the fight to ensure that no child goes to bed hungry.”

The move follows a Commons vote last Wednesday when the Conservatives rejected a Labour motion that would have seen free school meals extended over the school holidays, a measure that would have benefitted over 1.4 million children and their families.

Green has called for Gavin Williamson, as well as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, to meet with the Child Food Poverty Taskforce set up by Marcus Rashford, to discuss their proposals.

In her letter, Green condemned the “dangerous and stigmatising rhetoric” used by Conservative MPs in recent days. She criticised Ben Bradley MP for a tweet in which he supported the claim that the provision of free school meal vouchers in summer amounted to £20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel”, and expressed concern at Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, who criticised businesses in her area for providing free meals over the holidays.

The intervention comes as Labour increases the pressure on the Conservatives to make tackling child poverty a national priority. The last Labour government set clear targets to end child poverty by 2020, but in the last year it has risen, with projections that it will continue to rise as a result of the pandemic. In the last General Election the Resolution Foundation warned that the Conservative manifesto could see child poverty reach record highs.


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