Tory MP quits government role over free school meals vote

22 October 2020, 10:54 | Updated: 22 October 2020, 11:16

MPs voted against the plans last night
MPs voted against the plans last night. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell has quit her parliamentary role after supporting a vote to offer free meals for schoolchildren during holidays until Easter 2021.

Mrs Ansell was a private secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs but has withdrawn from the role in the wake of last night's vote.

MPs voted down the motion. Ms Ansell said the plan to have free meals till Easter would not have been a long term fix.

"I do not consider this extension could be in any way a long term solution," she said.

Caroline Ansell stepped down as private secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Caroline Ansell stepped down as private secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Picture: PA

"As we are still living very much in the shadow of the pandemic, vouchers are a lever - not perfect, not sustainable, but one which I thought could be used to reach families in Eastbourne and across the country in the immediate time ahead," she added.

The Labour motion, which aimed to give food vouchers to 1.4 million of the most disadvantaged children in the country, was defeated by 322 votes to 261 - a majority of 61.

In comparison, the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments are currently providing free school meals until Easter.

In response to the news, England football star Marcus Rashford urged politicians to "unite" to protect the most vulnerable children and vowed to continue campaigning, writing on Twitter: "For as long as they don't have a voice, they will have mine."

The Manchester United player had previously forced the government into a u-turn over the provision of school meals over the summer holidays, and earned an MBE for his work in raising money for children who don't have enough food.

He said in a statement on Twitter: "Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics and let's focus on the reality.

"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.

Five conservative MPs backed the vote.

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