Thursday, 22 October 2020

The hypocrisy of hunger from Tory MPs

Letter sent to the Guardian today: You report that 322 MPs voted against providing English schoolchildren from the poorest families- often single parented - with free meals over the Christmas holidays ) “MPs reject Rashford’s free school meals drive,” Oct.22). All these MPs earn a salary of £81,932, ( with a near £3000 annual increase due next April); MPs are also entitled to claim £9,000 a year for postage and stationery; during the COVID-19 pandemic MPs have been able to claim additional expenses of up to £10,000 to support the costs of them and their staff working from home. All MPs have enjoy the perk of subsidised food in the many restaurants available for their use in Parliament. All these MPs were able to take advantage of the Conservative chancellor’s “Eat-out-to-help-out” £10 per person per meal subsidy in the summer. Several of these self-centred Tory MPs argued in the debate on the ”Rashford Rule” in Parliament on Wednesday that these poorest of children should not be given the benefit of proper nutrition during the Christmas school holidays in England because they have feckless, disorganised and incapable parents, who allegedly fritter away their (meagre) social security money on cigarettes and fripperies. May I suggest these Tory MPs – including all the Governemnt ministers - hand back the state subsidies they have enjoyed since being MPs from their subsidised foods in Parliament, and subsidised cheap meals in the summer, as they do not believe in supporting even the poorest, hungriest children to eat properly using state (taxpayers’) money? These 322 Tory MPs are utter hypocrites. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Two verbatim speeches by Tory MPs to Parliamentary debate in the House of Commons on 21st December, without further comment. I hope theie constituents are proud of them.  5.57 pm Brendan Clarke-Smith (Bassetlaw) (Con) I strongly endorse what the Secretary of State has already said and commend the support for children and their families that he outlined. Free school meals have only ever been intended to support pupils during term time and it is important that that arrangement returns. On the proposals made today, why did colleagues on the Opposition Benches never implement any of them under the Labour Government? We need sensible policies to combat child poverty, not policy by public relations. As a former teacher and head, I have seen many cases in which children are the victims of neglect, and the extra care that we can provide through schools is sometimes life-changing, but it will never replace the role of the parent. When did it suddenly become controversial to suggest that the primary responsibility for a child’s welfare should lie with their parents, or to suggest that people do not always spend vouchers in the way they are intended? I will share my own experience. My parents separated when I was 11 years old and at one point I had to share a room with my father at my grandmother’s house. I qualified for free school meals, so I have experienced this myself. However, I never considered myself to be a child with a single parent: both parents cared, both parents worked and both parents did their best to provide for their children. Like many, they realised that parental responsibility does not end when a relationship does. We must focus on breaking the cycle in which the first reaction is to look to the state. It is a vicious circle. We need to support families with early intervention and help with things such as budgeting and employment. Collect and pay arrangements with the Child Maintenance Service show that only 60% of parents make payments—they are not necessarily adequate payments, as the figures are for people who pay anything at all—which leaves 40% who pay nothing. That is a disgrace. There are parents out there doing their best to manage under very difficult circumstances, while there are fathers and, indeed, mothers who disappear and think they can be absolved of all responsibility. This is not just immoral but means that many hard-working parents have to struggle and support their children on their own. The welfare state is rightly there as a safety net, but it is not a replacement. I have spoken to parents in Bassetlaw who have been left without support for years. We need ​to track these people down and make them contribute towards their children’s welfare. Where is the slick PR campaign encouraging absent parents to take some responsibility for their children? I do not believe in nationalising children. Instead, we need to get back to the idea of taking responsibility. That means less celebrity virtue signalling on Twitter by proxy and more action to tackle the real causes of child poverty. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>  6.09 pm David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con) I doubt anyone in the Chamber tonight would disagree that we must focus the resources of the nation on those who need help most, but whatever the question is before us, it requires a degree of objectivity and ​evidence in our decision making. Both of those things have been conspicuously lacking in the Opposition’s approach tonight. Let us consider for a moment the circumstances of the most vulnerable children in our country. There are around 400,000 children on the statutory children in need registers of our local authorities and 52,300 children on child protection plans. We all recognise that they are the most vulnerable, and they are in a system that we all recognise is facing a significant funding gap. What does it say about the Opposition’s priorities that all their interests are simply swept aside in favour of spending taxpayers’ money to curry favour with celebrity status, wealth and power? I have no doubt that Mr Rashford is an expert in his own experience, but we should not forget that the experiences he so movingly described took place under a Labour Government—a Labour Government then supposedly at the peak of their powers in tackling child poverty in this country. So if there was a lamentable failure, it was a lamentable failure of the Labour party when in Government. The beneficiaries of the earlier free school meals decision, which, of course, went way beyond anything ever done by Labour, at least had recourse to a variety of support. We had universal credit, jobseeker’s allowance, emergency support from local authorities and even, dare I mention it, food banks. But we talk about the need to tackle food poverty in this country, and of course, this debate is happening at a time when the cost of food to British families is at a historic low—8% of household expenditure on average, down from 35% in 1957, when my father was the age that my son is today. If that is not a strategy to tackle food poverty, I do not know what is. I know that the Opposition do not like to waste a good crisis, but this House should be ashamed if we allow ourselves today to be pushed into setting aside the circumstances of the most needy. Neglect, domestic violence, addiction and family breakdown are the major drivers of that need. They must not be put aside in favour of currying the favour of the wealthy and powerful and celebrities.

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