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UK News

‘I don't want to nationalise feeding children’: Christian MP defends government´s decision on free school meals

Christian conservative MP Gary Streeter has defended voting against parliament's proposals to provide free meals to vulnerable children during the upcoming school holidays.

Though the government has received significant backlash and criticism for not supporting Labour´s proposal, the MP for South West Devon told Premier there is already enough provision from the state.

“We must not take away from parents their responsibility to feed and look after their children," he said.

“I know there are some households in which there are children who are neglected and are not well treated and there are all sorts of resources out there to try to tackle that; but I don't want to nationalise feeding children. I think that would be a mistake.”

For some people, Streeter´s decision to support the government appears at odds with his faith. But for Streeter, his voting decision does not undermine his Christian beliefs.

“I've had several people questioning my Christian faith, but that's up to them," he said. "I know where I stand, I know why I voted as I have voted." 

Streeter continued: “[I had] one email this morning from a constituent saying: “This is disgusting. I hope your children starve.” But in politics, you can't react to that. You just have to grow a backbone and plough on.”

Footballer Marcus Rushford has been leading the efforts to extend free school meals to children whose families have been hit hardest by coronavirus.

Earlier this month, a report by The Food Foundation thinktank estimated that one million children had signed up for free school meals for the first time, with 64 per cent of them belonging to former higher-income households.

After the vote failed to pass in parliament, some councils, such as Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea, have said they will continue providing free meal vouchers through the break despite the lack of funding.

Christian charity The Children's Society has estimated that among parents who do not receive free school meals, four in ten have had to cut down on the rest of their family food shop to meet the expense.

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