Derbyshire MP defends Government over ‘disgraceful’ free school meals

A Derbyshire MP has defended the Government after controversy erupted over the quality of free school meals being given to vulnerable children.

Pauline Latham, the Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, said the Prime Minister had ‘nothing to apologise for’ after parents receiving the meals were left upset at the amount they had received.

Images posted on social media sparked outrage after it was estimated a food parcel was estimated to contain just over £5 worth of food, the Mirror reports.

This prompted Labour leader Keir Starmer to brand it as a “disgrace”, with footballer and free school meals campaigner Marcus Rashford also expressing his shock.

Labour MP for Chesterfield Toby Perkins has also criticised the cost of the scheme which he claims gives too little food for too much money.

Chartwells, the company which provides the meals, later admitted the quantity of the package had fallen short “in this instance”.

Speaking on Channel 4 news on Tuesday evening, January 12, Mrs Latham said it was “terrible” people were receiving subpar meals, but added the Government was not to blame.

“I think it was terrible, that’s why the Government have jumped on it straight away and are trying to get to the bottom of it to make sure that any food that is given out to parents for their children is appropriate,” she said.

“The schools decide whether they want to use vouchers – local vouchers with a local provider. There some national ones coming online any minute now.

“We don’t give out cash as such, but the whole point of this is to give a balanced meal for children – it’s only their lunch, it’s not all meals everyday.

“It’s enough for lunches for a child for a week, usually.”

Pauline Latham defended the Government
(Image: Channel 4)

Responding to a question on whether Boris Johnson should apologise to the families affected by this, Mrs Latham said: “I don’t think the Prime Minister has anything to apologise for.

“He is making sure that there is money through the Chancellor, through the schools department, through the headteachers, that food is getting to those pupils.

“This is a particularly difficult situation at the moment, clearly due to the pandemic many people have unfortunately lost their jobs and are finding it very difficult to manage at the moment.

She added that the meals she had seen on social media were “inadequate” and said once the pandemic is over the Government would be looking at ways to deal with child poverty long-term.

Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield, added his voice to those expressing their displeasure with the meals on Tuesday, January 12.

Mr Perkins posted that he had been able to find the same type and amount of found in a Derbyshire County Council parcel that is meant to last two weeks for less than half the price at Lidl.

He said: “I just don’t think it’s good enough and that is why we have exposed that today.”

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