Free school meals: Half-a-million strong campaign demands end to subsidised food for MPs amid row over Marcus Rashford's campaign

Robert Dex
·2 min read

More than half-a-million people have demanded an end for subsidised food and drink for MPs as the row over free school meals continues.

An online campaign to "demand an end to the practice of paying expenses to MPs for food and drink" and to make sure their meals in parliament cost "market rates" had been signed by around 554,000 people just two days after it was launched.

Campaigners said politicians "should under no circumstances benefit from free or subsidised meals out of public funds themselves. If the public purse cannot afford to feed the poorest in our society, why are we feeding those least in need?"

It comes after MPs rejected a bid from Labour, inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford, to extend free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021.

MPs are entitled to claim up to £25 a night on expenses for food if they stay overnight outside of both their constituency and London, while restaurants and cafes inside parliament charge less for meals than they would elsewhere in central London.

Petition organiser Portia Lawrie said she "wanted to point out the clear hypocrisy: of MPs "denying support to those most in need of it" while benefiting from public subsidy themselves.

Marcus Rashford visited FareShare Greater Manchester at New Smithfield Market with his mother (right), which is naming a new warehouse in her honour. (PA)
Marcus Rashford visited FareShare Greater Manchester at New Smithfield Market with his mother (right), which is naming a new warehouse in her honour. (PA)

She said: "I couldn't quite believe what I was watching unfold as hundreds of thousands of people threw their support behind it in less than 24 hours. It’s simply unfair that the government is refusing to use OUR money for one of the most basic responsibilities of a compassionate society - feeding hungry children. And the level of support this petition is getting shows clearly the level of hurt caused by those who voted against it."

"Many MPs are pushing for free school meals to be extended into the school holidays, and I applaud them. But It’s time for the government to listen to them, and us, and make sure children across the UK do not go hungry any longer. Enough is enough."

Manchester United and England striker Rashford has been hailed a "hero of our times" after his campaign to provide free meals to children during the school holidays prompted an outpouring of support on social media.

The 22-year-old posted a string of tweets to his 3.6 million followers on Thursday night and throughout Friday, highlighting cafes, bars, restaurants and other organisations who had volunteered to help children going hungry.

A number of Conservative councils have joined town halls up and down the country in committing to provide free school meals over the October half term.

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