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MP slams Government over free school meals

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson challenged the Government’s decision
to cut free school meals to thousands of children at Prime Minister’s
Questions.

The MP asked Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May: “The UK has the
lowest growth in the G7. Why is the Government’s answer to this to
give handouts to a few wealthy bankers to fund an already lavish
lifestyle, paid for by taking crumbs off the table of those on 
Universal Credit whose children depend on free school meals?”

Free school meals are currently offered to all children whose families
claim universal credit. It was previously offered to children whose
parents claimed out of work benefits such as income support and
jobseekers’ allowance.

Universal credit replaces out-of-work benefits and rolls six benefits,
including some in-work benefits such as housing benefit, into one
payment, so the Government decided that during the trial period all
children in universal credit families would get a free school meal,
not just those whose parents who were out of work.

The changes mean up to a million children who currently receive a free
school meal under the current universal credit rules will no longer be
eligible if their parents earn more than £7,400 a year.

In Northern Ireland, where the Conservative government's DUP
partners dominate, the threshold will be nearly double that of
England’s at £14,000 per year, drawing accusations that the Prime
Minister is favouring the party who are keeping the Conservatives in
Government.

Free school meals are worth more than £1,000 per year per child.

Mr Esterson said: “The Government wants to make work pay but this
policy will mean the opposite: parents will be discouraged from taking
up work or from taking on more work, due to losing free school meals.”

Mr Esterson added: “An income level of £7,400  is hardly comfortable,
in fact children whose household income is this low are living in
poverty. The next Labour government will give all primary school
children a free school meal regardless of income.”

The Chancellor Phillp Hammond last year announced a reduction in the
Bank Levy – a tax on bank’s debts – which will  save the UK’s biggest
banks £4.7billion by 2020. The Government also has £70bn of
corporation tax cuts scheduled mostly for the largest corporations,
which include the biggest banks.

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