Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:25 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford 5:25 pm, 16th June 2020

I am quite astonished that Brexit has managed to be shoehorned into this debate; I am quite happy to talk about Brexit and the opportunities it gives us. I do think that what has happened and what the taxpayer wants is fairness. It wants fairness: yes, it does not want children starving, but it also recognises the fact that there are huge burdens now on our economy and that that money needs to be paid back. We should not get ourselves into the situation of trying to pretend that the state can provide everything in every situation. That is simply not affordable.

Assistance for families to provide food for their children through the summer is very important. Where parents are out of work and in need of help, it is right that the Government provide assistance. Nobody has ever disputed that. Our plans were originally to provide support through local authorities, but now a summer food fund will ensure that children will not go without food provision over the summer, and they were never going to.

This Government have spent money to an unprecedented level, and that money has been targeted at those most affected by this outbreak. The furloughing scheme alone will cost up to £100 billion, and the scheme will still be operating during the school summer holidays and well into the autumn. If anybody doubts this Government’s commitment to free school meals, I can point out that many Conservative Members, including the Secretary of State—unfortunately, he has just popped out—were the ones that supported four to seven-year-olds getting free school meals for the first time, which did not happen in 13 years of a Labour Government.