Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew issues statement over free school meals vote

Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew.

Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew has issued a statement on social media detailing why he rejected free school meals for children over the holidays.

Mr Andrew, who is Conservative Deputy Chief Whip, voted against a House of Commons motion in which, if approved, would have seen free school meals for kids extended through the holidays.

The vote followed a campaign by England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.

Amid growing outrage over the government’s refusal to extend free school meals in England next week, Mr Andrew today issued a lengthy statement on his Facebook page, explaining his position. The statement in full reads:

“First and foremost, this is an important issue for me, not least because I spent a lot of my time at school on free school meals, so I find it hard when the opposition try to make out I don’t care and that Conservative Members of Parliament want children to starve. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“That is why I voted for the amendment that underlined our determination to do as much possible to help, especially the most vulnerable. The measures include:

• Extending the eligibility for free school meals to a further 50,000 children.

• Expanded programmes like Breakfast Clubs to ensure a good start to the day.

• For the last 3 years spent £9 million on the “Holiday Activities and Food Program”, supporting 50,000 of the most deprived children during the summer.

• Designing the ground-breaking Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, with 9.6 million workers furloughed, backed with £39.3 billion by HM Treasury.

• Helping 2.7 million self-employed people, backed with £7.8 billion by HM Treasury. This has benefited 4,900 self-employed people across Pudsey.

• Added over £9billion to the welfare system. This has allowed us to:-* Increase Universal Credit by over £1,000 a year * Increase Local Housing Allowance and create a £180m fund to help struggling families with their rent * Award £16m to food charities* Create a £63m fund for council’s to use to assist with local welfare. This latter fund saw Leeds receive over £1m, which helped to better target support to the most vulnerable.

As a Government, we provided Free School Meal vouchers over the summer because schools had been closed since March and families had been covering the costs.

This Autumn, it is different as schools have reopened and meals are being provided in term time.

The issue with the vouchers also highlighted that some of the children most in need still did not get the nutritious food they needed, and that is why the £63million fund is a better way of targeting support.

It is also important to note that we have about £2.7 billion in unclaimed benefits, meaning 700k families were missing out on up to £270 per month. In an attempt to deal with the complexities with applying for benefits, we have rolled them into one simpler system so people get what they are entitled to and have provided £40 million to the Citizens Advice Service in the ‘Help to Claim’ scheme.

Of course, Labour have deliberately tried to make out that we are doing nothing, but I would say this:

– We extended free school meal through the Summer, Labour never did during the financial crash.

– We have added £9bn to welfare support, much more than Labour did during the financial crash, when unemployment soared.

– We introduced a comprehensive furlough scheme to protect incomes and save jobs. Labour never did this in the financial crash, instead they simply stood by and allowed jobs to go and people to be made unemployed.

“This vote would not have delivered free school meals as it was a non-binding and politically motivated Opposition Day Debate.

“Whilst I understand the attempt to score political points, I find it hard to take lectures from the Opposition when we are taking specific, targeted action in addition to increased family financial support and when I know what it is actually like to be on free school meals.

“This is an important area of work and one I care deeply, about but I want a long term solution – not the short fix they proposed. It also begs the question, if our amendment was so bad, why didn’t the Labour Party vote against our motion?”

Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves yesterday described the outcome of the vote as ‘shameful’.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have badly let down more than one million children and their families.

“No child should go hungry over the holidays, but the Government is blocking the action needed to prevent this.

“We pay tribute to Marcus Rashford and others for shining a spotlight on this incredibly important issue. This campaign is not over and the government must reconsider.”

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  1. I Support Mr Andrew
    I’ve been a Foster Carer for 14/15 years.
    I’ve looked after many children whose Parents fail to feed or clothe their children and it’s had nothing to do with food availability or how much an MP is paid. We need to stop bad people getting away with hurting their own children. It’s a complicated issue but most of the children I’ve cared for were removed from their Mothers. There’s nearly always a horrible freeloading partner and domestic abuse is common. Sort out the idiots who prey on these women and you might see less children in care.

    Drugs and Alcohol are key factors too. I’ve looked after many children who hadn’t ever used a toothbrush. Ever! Ten year-old children who had not learned to keep themselves safe or healthy. Children who weren’t sent to school very often but when they did go they were able to eat for the first time in many hours or days. I’ve looked after children who went to school hungry and Teachers, caretakers and cleaners fed them. Little children who wander the streets at night, fed by shopkeepers. Children who were seriously abused. Children’s bones broken at home and the parent sent the child to school in an attempt to blame a Teacher for the injury. Children with outstanding physical injuries that parents didn’t care about. Foetal Alcohol syndrome children and children born with drug addiction.

    Many children fed crisps, chocolate and fizzy pop etc for breakfast before they go to school. Children who were sent to school in the wrong clothes or no underwear etc. Teachers paying for socks and even having whip-rounds to buy a child a present on their birthday because their own families wouldn’t bother. I looked after a child whose parents gave their child used pencils and a used colouring book for Christmas. A laptop with many keys missing with another family’s pictures on the hard drive. A mixing deck that was stolen from a DJ and clothing for the opposite sex. All these children weren’t fed and all the parents claimed it was somebody else’s fault. The worst abuses I’ve not mentioned (yes sexual abuse but it gets darker) The best of it is, none of the abusive parents faced any jail time. Their children were removed after years of failed intervention and support to help the parent look after their children. They all get away with it. They ruin a child’s life.
    Why are we not bothered about that?

  2. Stuart Andrew and the rest of his party are wilfully confusing the public about this situation. It is obvious to the majority of the population that this Free School Meals policy has been found wanting. Children of families hit by the pandemic which receive state aid in term time get free school meals in term time. This state aid does not change during the holidays, nor does a family’s need to feed their children but Andrew and his government is quite happy to penalise these families by removing the vouchers which earlier replaced free school meals.
    Conservative politicians (with a very few honourable exceptions) continually bamboozle the public with figures about this that and the other fund they have placed in the hands of this that and the other organisation. Yet they fail to grasp a perfectly reasonable solution, leaving it to charities, local businesses and (unbelievably, but guess what, very effectively) football clubs to deal with feeding children who no fault of their own will go hungry without some clear action from a government which has, not for the first time, lost its way.
    600 meaningless words from Central Office repeated slavishly by cannon fodder Conservative MPs cannot hide the fact that those we should be caring for are yet again the “left behind”. It is about time Andrew got off his knees and stopped doing exactly as his chief whip tells him and started representing the interests of his community. He would certainly appear less foolish and weak if he did that!


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