Hitchin and Harpenden MP responds to ‘moral criticism’ over his free school meals vote

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, was one of 322 MPs who voted against the extension of the free school meals...

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, was one of 322 MPs who voted against the extension of the free school meals scheme. Picture: Archant/PA Wire/Martin Wooton - Credit: Archant

A motion that could have provided more than 2,000 children in North Hertfordshire with weekly food vouchers until 2021 was voted down by a majority of Conservative MPs last night.

The Labour-led proposal, that would have seen children provided with free school meals during October half-term and Christmas, was defeated by 322 votes to 261.

The scheme would have seen 2,300 children in North Herts awarded weekly £15 food vouchers during school holidays until Easter.

Bim Afolami, Member of Parliament for Hitchin and Harpenden, was one MP who voted against the scheme.

Justifying his decision, Mr Afolami said: “The Government has put an additional £9 billion into the welfare system to combat poverty, including £63 million to help councils support families in need.

“This targeted support has provided 1.4 million children from low income families with free school meals.

“Opposition day motions cannot change policy. This vote was never designed to achieve anything constructive for the poorest in this country.

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“As with many of these high-profile political stunts, scratch beneath the headline and you’ll find evidence that the government is doing its best to support vulnerable people at this difficult time.

“The moral criticism that ‘Tories don’t care’ is not at all reflected in my own tenets, nor my colleagues, nor the demonstratable track record of this government.”

Some of his constituents have taken to Twitter to slam his decision.

Lynn Grounds said: “Bim Afolami shamefully voted for children to go hungry in school holidays.”

Dave Bradley added: “Our community is built on supporting each other, our MPs clearly support themselves exclusively.”

Previously, following pressure from Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford MBE, the government extended the free school meals voucher over the summer. READ MORE: North Herts kids set to benefit after free school meal scheme announced Last night, Rashford tweeted: “A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter. “We must stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers. Our views are being clouded by political affiliation. “This is not politics, this is humanity.” In total, 1.4 million children in England benefit from the free school meals scheme.