MPs vote down Labour bid to stop 1.1 million children missing out on free school meals

Posted On: 
13th March 2018

Labour has lost a bid to stop more than one million children missing out on free school meals.

Angela Rayner in the House of Commons.
Parliament TV

MPs voted 312 to 254 against an attempt by Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner to block government changes to Universal Credit rules.

However, the Government did announce a six-month extension to the state-funded childcare vouchers scheme, which ministers had planned to phase out, following pressure from Labour and the DUP.

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The right to free school meals previously applied to everyone who received Universal Credit, but under government reforms families earning over £7,500, excluding benefits, will no longer be entitled in the future.

According to Labour, some 1.1 million children will lose their right to a free school meal as a result.

Ms Rayner said the changes would effect "families and their children, particularly those already struggling to get by".

“I remember when the Prime Minister said that the mission of her government was the acronym 'JAMs'," she said.

“I’m starting to think it just stood for 'just about May’s survival', but it was meant to be 'just about managing', yet under this government there will be jams today and there will still be jams tomorrow, because instead of helping them get on and get by, this government is making life even harder. Today is a chance to say enough is enough."

Labour backbencher Clive Lewis also blasted the proposals, accusing Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey of being “meaner even than the master in Oliver Twist work house”.

“She seeks not just to stop the second helpings, but any meal at all,” he added.


However the minister hit back, accusing Labour of “scaremongering” and insisted 50,000 more children would benefit under the changes.

“In the chamber, we shouldn't be giving the public misinformation but unfortunately that is what has been happening so far.  

“Last month stories emerged from members opposite… that our plans for entitlement to free school meals would deprive over one million children.

“It took a Channel 4 Fact Check to point out that no child currently receiving them would lose out there entitlement and in fact 50,000 more children would benefit under our proposals when compared to the previous system.

“While I understand that it is the nature of the opposition to oppose; scaremongering and misinformation from that side of the House have surely reached a new low as today they seek to annul regulations consisting largely of changes introduced purely to support benefit claimants, changes that the members opposite have called for.”

Outspoken Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, who has previously railed against welfare changes said, in what amounted to a “wake-up call” for her, Labour were “prioritising headlines” rather than helping struggling families.