Free School Meals: Summer Holidays

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:44 pm on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Conservative, Watford 5:44 pm, 16th June 2020

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Thankfully, we were in a position that I knew we would be in and anticipated throughout, because, to be open, I too have been lobbying the Government on this issue. I have used strong words behind the scenes, because it has been very important to make sure that this particular situation was sorted. I want to get on with my speech, but my point is that I feel it would have happened anyway, because that has been the movements and music behind the scenes.

The point is that we have to get away from this football politics—excuse the pun on Marcus Rashford—because we have to make sure that we work together cohesively. Throughout the whole of this pandemic, the Government have adapted. We have listened, changed and improved. We have ensured that the most vulnerable in society are being looked after. Look at how many people have been furloughed, how many businesses have been sorted with bounce-back loans and how many children in the vulnerable category were able to go to school.

I have been going every Saturday with an amazing charity called One Vision and another charity initiative called Sewa Day, along with the Salvation Army and others, to deliver food. At least once every single week, if not more often, I get the opportunity to go and see people face to face and help them where I can, but I have known that that is in addition to all the support that the Government are giving.

Do not get me wrong: the reality is that it is important that children in school are fed. It is absolutely a human right. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, so I see this and am very passionate about it. We cannot feed a child’s mind unless we feed their stomach first. We have to hold that at the core of this. But unless we all spot areas where we can improve and work together to improve those things together, we end up with this political point scoring—a fear of adapting, because if we U-turn, the newspaper front pages will say we have failed. Let us praise the successes we have had and the opportunities to work together, and let us look at moving forward on that so that we can make a real difference.

I have one last point to make. When we have these opportunities to change things and adapt them, let us look at how we move forward in the next six months to a year, and the next two or three years. The voluntary sector absolutely has a part to play, not only to help provide support but to be the eyes and ears. The Government have worked hard to collaborate, not just at a party level but with business, charities and organisations to make sure that we are doing that.