Kevan Jones – 2020 Speech on Free School Meals

Below is the text of the speech made by Kevan Jones, the Labour MP for North Durham, in the House of Commons on 16 June 2020.

On 27 March, at the daily press conference, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that the coronavirus “does not discriminate”. We know that is not true, with 88% higher mortality rates in deprived communities, and we all see and know in our own constituencies the economic effects that this virus is having in more deprived areas. In my own constituency, 1,570 people have joined the claimant count since March, and that will increase. Their families are made up of hard-working, dedicated individuals who through no fault of their own have found themselves and will find themselves struggling. The hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) is not here, but I am sorry, the state does need to intervene in these situations, because these people pay their tax and are proud individuals, and they need our support now.

Listening to Conservative Members today, it is as though an amendment was not on the Order Paper saying that they were going to oppose free school meals over the summer, but it is there. As I challenged the hon. Member for Watford (Dean Russell), if it had been there tonight and things had not changed, they would all have trooped through the Lobby and voted against giving our children free school meals during the summer holidays. In 2020 in the sixth richest country in the world, if we cannot afford to support and feed children, there is something terribly wrong. That is not the society I came into politics to see. It is one that I and, I know, others on the Labour Benches will continue to fight, and we will fight against the injustice that this Government seem to be completely deaf to.