Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:07 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Naseem Shah Naseem Shah Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:07 pm, 16th June 2020

I will not be giving way; I will make some progress.

Bradford West has one of the highest rates of child poverty. It is in the top 10 according to the charity End Child Poverty. Its findings show that 50.9% of children in my constituency live in poverty after housing costs. The Government’s own statistics show that almost 40,000 children across the Bradford district are living in poverty. Those children are not mere statistics. Each one of them is a Marcus Rashford, except the cycle of deprivation will mean they may never get out of poverty.

Marcus Rashford epitomises what happens in spite of, not because of, poverty. One of the reasons he felt the campaign was needed was that poverty was his experience. One of the reasons my hon. Friend James Murray tweets about it and talks about it is that he also experienced life as a child of a single parent on free school meals, just like I did and just like my siblings did. Will the new yardstick in this place to get the Government to do the right thing be a campaign by a footballer or by somebody who has a social media following? Is that what the yardstick is going to be? That would be a crying shame.

Yes, the Government can say that they are running pilot schemes in constituencies such as mine—