Labour abstain on free school meals extension

Build a new mass workers’ party that fights to end poverty for good

Catherine Clarke, Southampton West Socialist Party

800,000 children in England live in poverty but do not qualify for free school meals. An amendment moved by Lord Storey, a Liberal Democrat, in the House of Lords sought to extend the programme to all children whose families receive Universal Credit.

Unsurprisingly, the Tories voted against it and the amendment fell. Shockingly, all but three Labour Lords abstained. It is thought that the Keir Starmer leadership whipped for an abstention.

Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Lady Chapman, said that Labour would have voted for it if the Tories had. So much for being an ‘opposition’!

Some of us once naively thought that Labour represented the working class, whether in the Lords, or the House of Commons. Who knew their role was to play parlour games with our children’s lives?!

As it stands, government rules restrict free meals to those families with a net annual earning of less than £7,400. But with prices rising, more children are being thrown into poverty.

Many parents are forced to make a choice between working more hours or keeping free school meals for their children. A family with three children has to earn £3,133 more after tax to make up for the cost of losing free school meals – another Tory poverty trap.

Don’t be fooled. The UK is the fifth richest country in the world. There is no reason why healthy and nutritious free school meals cannot be extended to all school children, and during the holidays too!

Neither is there any good reason why children should grow up in poverty. A real living wage of £15 an hour, with decent benefits and pensions, all rising with the cost of living, is also possible. But we need a party to fight for it. Labour is clearly not that party. That’s why we call on the trade unions to help establish a new mass workers’ party – one that actually fights for a socialist solution to the cost-of-living crisis.