Stratford-Upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi has defended his vote against extending free school meals throughout the Christmas holidays.
Labour’s Opposition Day Motion was rejected with all but five Conservative MPs voting against the proposal.
Responding to questions put to him by the Herald, Mr Zahawi said:
“The vote on Wednesday was on an Opposition Day Motion. It was not on legislation. This means that even if the vote had been carried it would have had no effect whatsoever. The motion was nothing more than political posturing by the Opposition.
“Earlier in the year, when the boundaries between school and home became blurred due to school closures, the Government was right to extend the provision of free school meals in the way that it did. But we are in a different position now. Families on the lowest incomes have been given an extra £1000 per year through Universal Credit, which is part of an overall injection of £9 billion into the welfare system. And a further £1 billion catch-up fund has been made available to help the most vulnerable children and families through this period.
“Investments such as these might not be as headline-grabbing as the parliamentary drama of an Opposition Day Motion, but this does not mean the difference they make to children’s lives up and down the country is any less significant.”
So what is an Opposition Day Motion?
Writing about the school meals vote for the ‘i news’ politics journalist Karl MacDonald explained: “Opposition Day motions in the House of Commons rarely succeed. By definition, the Government is at pains not to allow the opposition party to legislate. If the opposition can select a motion which would be embarrassing or difficult for the Government to vote against, it can draw public attention to its refusal, however – and Labour appears to have succeeded on that count.”
Clearly the Government could respond to the groundswell of opinion and extend the free school meals scheme if it wished – that’s the opinion of campaigner footballer Marcus Rashford.
After the motion was defeated, Mr Rashford said: “A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today.
“We must stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers. Our views are being clouded by political affiliation. This is not politics, this is humanity.”