Alison McGovern – 2020 Speech on Free School Meals

Below is the text of the speech made by Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South, in the House of Commons on 16 June 2020.

I rise on the fourth anniversary of the death of my friend Jo Cox. We remember her every day.

I want to thank England’s—[Interruption.] Go on then, Mike—Man United’s Marcus Rashford. We are all grateful to him. I thank the Secretary of State for answering his call, which will undoubtedly make a difference, although I suspect he is now having a word with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for taking a pop at our footballers at the beginning of the covid crisis, which has now come home to roost.

Holiday hunger is not a singular or new problem. It has its roots in insufficient family incomes, the cause of which is labour market fragility, which my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) spoke about. We know that the problems in the job market are about to get much worse. Added to that are rising prices in crucial areas such as childcare and the harm to the power of the welfare state in this country, which will be my focus in the minute I have remaining.

The Conservatives have been in charge for 10 years. They have had enough time to show us their priorities, and here is what those priorities have been. The shutting of Sure Start, the end of the child trust fund and the cancellation of the health in pregnancy grant foreshadowed George Osborne’s £12 billion of welfare cuts. The Conservatives ripped the Child Poverty Act 2010 from the statute book, they introduced the two-child policy, which sent a message to children in families of three or four kids that the state does not care, and they introduced the benefits freeze, which sent the same message to families of all sizes. Child benefit has been cut by £350 per year for a family of two kids, and the local housing allowance has simply failed to keep up with rents. The Conservatives demonstrated their priorities by forcing people off tax credits on to universal credit even if that made them worse off. All of that was on top of low wage growth, which is compounded for many—particularly for single parents—by their inability to work ever more hours. For families in this country, there simply are not enough hours in the day.

Those are the choices that have been made. Holiday hunger is simply the consequence of all that. It is the consequence of the Government picking holes in the blanket of the welfare state for 10 years. Each and every one of those policy choices has had consequences, and here we are. At the end of the day, this is about putting money in people’s pockets or not. My party has lost four elections in the past 10 years, and that is on us. Meanwhile, four Conservative Chancellors have put 600,000 children in this country into poverty, and that is on them.