LEIGH MP James Grundy and Bolton West and Atherton MP Chris Green have voted against the motion to extend free school meals to the spring.

Labour’s motion, which follows the bid of Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford MBE for schools to have free meals for eligible children extended through until Easter 2021, was defeated by 261 votes to 322 – a majority 61 - in the House of Commons.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the Conservatives had voted to let the more than 1.4 million children eligible for free school meals "go hungry through the holidays".

Leigh MP James Grundy said there are "better ways to address the issue of child poverty" and that "the education budget must be used for educational purposes"

In a statement, Mr Grundy said: "I have also received a number of enquiries regarding the vote to extend free school meals outside of term time.

"It is my view that the education budget must be used for educational purposes. Hard pressed schools should not be made to bear the burden of what is effectively a welfare issue. There are better ways to address the issue of child poverty than re-allocating funding meant for teaching staff, the maintenance of school buildings, and teaching materials to provide food to children outside of the school environment.

"Throughout this pandemic, my team and I have been working closely with local organisations to help provide food parcels to any families that are struggling, and we will continue to do so throughout the winter period.

"If anyone knows of a struggling family that requires help, or if your own family is struggling, please do get in touch with our office and we will ensure that you not only receive food parcels, but also have access to a full range of help, advice, and support for any problems you may be facing."

Nottingham MP Ben Bradley engaged in a Twitter exchange with Rashford, writing: “Gov has lots of responsibilities: supporting the vulnerable, helping people to help themselves, balancing the books.

“Not as simple as you to make out Marcus. Extending FSM to sch hols passes responsibility for feeding kids away from parents, to the State. It increases dependency.”

Rashford tweeted back: “Ben, the economy already pays a high price for child hunger. If children were fed properly you would increase educational attainment and boost life chances. @KelloggsUKI calculated we would spend at least £5.2M a year on lost teaching hours as teachers are caring for hungry kids.

“And for a more humane response, since March, 32% of families have suffered a drop in income. Nearly 1 million have fallen off the payroll. This is not dependency, this a cry for help. There are no jobs!! 250% increase in food poverty and rising. Nobody said this was simple…”