I agree that we must find a way to wipe out child hunger. Having worked with organisations that distribute good but surplus food where it is needed, I know there is enough food to go around in the UK. In fact, I’ve seen figures suggesting that food waste contributes to about 10% of harmful emissions so I fully get the injustice of food poverty and believe it needs fixing urgently. I take this seriously and it is not a matter for cheap political point scoring. If Labour really cared about the issue they would not be calling for a national programme to be rolled out to provide school meals during the half-term holiday just two days before it started - hence the political point scoring comment. It’s the worst kind of party politics and designed to embarrass the
Government rather than feed hungry children. The PM is right to defend the Government on this issue. He stated that changes to benefit payments and additional cash to councils is the best way to ensure those that need the help can get it. In fact last week Cornwall Council received an additional unrestricted £6.2m. In each of our towns there are competent organisations that know who needs good nutritious food and can get it to them. This has to be the most intelligent, least wasteful method of helping people in food poverty and are worthy of direct council support using this money. During lockdown the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (of which I am a member) held an inquiry into access to food during the coronavirus pandemic. We took evidence in relation to a number of initiatives designed to get food to those who needed it including a multi-million pound arrangement with the charity Foodshare to use surplus food for families in need. There are a number of ways to address poverty including tackling high rents and high energy prices (both contributing factors to poverty and the Government has a determined focus in this area). Finally, it occurred to me since the outcry following the vote in Parliament last week, that in the five years that I have been an MP, no one has ever emailed me about school meals during school holidays until last week. It is the Conservative Government that provided vouchers for £15 per qualifying child per week during lockdown. It is sad that a positive move of a Conservative Government is being used as a rod to beat us with.
Talk here in Parliament is of the continuous rise of coronavirus across the UK but thankfully Cornwall and Scilly’s story is that the spread of this dreadful disease is very low. We had 45 cases per 100,000 people in the latest week 17 Oct-23 Oct (the average area in England had 137). Thank you to everyone once again for doing exactly what is needed to keep coronavirus at bay.