IN utterly shameful scenes, Conservatives voted down a Labour motion to feed more than 1.4 million hungry children during school breaks until Easter next year.
The motion was defeated by 322 votes to 261.
Boris Johnson repeatedly swerved pleas from MPs to support the campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford to help ensure the poorest children are guaranteed meals during the second wave of the pandemic.
Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green appealed to the Government to “ensure that over a million children do not go hungry this Christmas”. She demanded answers on why “money only runs out when it is hungry children who need it” while private firms, consultants and Tory donors benefit from the “gravy train”.
Senior Conservative MP Robert Halfon threw his weight behind the plans, saying: “Free school meals should be extended over the school holidays temporarily as long as the big effects of the pandemic continue to be felt.
“If we acknowledge that children risk going hungry in term time by providing them with free school meals, despite the provision of Universal Credit and the other things that have been mentioned by the Government, we know that they risk going hungry in the holidays too.”
But other Tory MPs lined up to criticise the idea.
Brendan Clarke-Smith, an ex-teacher, said parents needed to take responsibility and bizarrely declared: “I do not believe in nationalising children.”
“Now 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 then supposedly at the peak of its powers in tackling child poverty in this country.”
The Manchester United and England Striker, who forced a u-turn on the issue in the summer, warned MPs not to “turn a blind eye” to the plight of the most vulnerable as he locked horns with Tory MPs on Twitter.