Political row over free school meals

Ian Lavery wins the Wansbeck seat at the Northumberland General Election count 2017
Ian Lavery wins the Wansbeck seat at the Northumberland General Election count 2017

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has slammed the Government following a vote which has sparked a major political 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.

Mr Lavery, who is also the Party’s chairman, 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, Labour’s claims have been disputed by the Conservatives and criticised as ‘falsehoods and misinformation’.

An article by Channel 4’s FactCheck 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, 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.’