Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, has welcomed the Government’s decision to reverse course on its earlier plans not to extend the Free School Meal Voucher Scheme over the summer holidays. The Government announced today that a new £120 million Covid summer food fund would be set up to ensure 1.3 million children in the most hard-pressed families receive a food voucher worth £15 a week over the 6 week summer break.
The Government’s change of course follows a number of efforts made by Hunt and other parliamentary colleagues behind the scenes to stress the importance of these vouchers to families facing hardship during Covid-19 and to urge the Government to extend them over the summer holidays. Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford also made a high profile intervention in support of the extension of the Scheme yesterday.
On 5 June, Hunt penned a letter to the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, detailing his support for the extension of the scheme and highlighting its importance to many families in Ipswich undergoing severe financial pressure and struggling to make ends meet. Hunt’s letter also came in the wake of a study finding that one in four children in Ipswich are living in relative poverty.
Hunt’s correspondence on the 5 June followed an earlier letter which Hunt co-signed as a Member of the Education Committee on 13 May which urged the Minister for Children to look early on into what can be done to extend the free school meal voucher scheme over the Summer holiday.
Today before the Government’s new plans were announced, Hunt was ready to vote against the Government in a motion calling for money to be available to disadvantaged children over the summer holiday.
Following the Government’s announcement today, Tom said:
“I am pleased the Government has listened to the concerns raised and has decided to extend free school meal vouchers over the summer as part of a new fund. This is an issue I have been intimately involved in as a member of the Education Committee and I know that for many families in Ipswich these vouchers are an essential source of support during Covid-19.
“In my letter to the Minister for Children almost two weeks ago, I raised the fact that there are 3 million children at risk of holiday hunger in the UK and that many of them will be children in Ipswich. This is a scenario which must be avoided and I was ready to vote against the Government today on this issue. But I am glad the Government has listened and will now provide a £90 food voucher for the most disadvantaged children over summer.
“The Covid-19 outbreak has been an exceptional time and it’s important we are ready to implement exceptional measures to ensure that no child is left behind. We will be dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education for many more months and years to come and it would only have compounded these issues if we didn’t do everything it takes to ensure children come through the summer holidays well-nourished.”
Following my interventions in Parliament last week raising concerns about the violence that has taken place at the recent protests in London I was invited this morning for a special briefing by the Metropolitan Police. The National Lead for Protest Policing was present as well as other of senior Officers. I expressed my disgust at the way a number of war memorials have been defaced and damaged as well as the Churchill monument.
My own view is I think the policing over the past week weeks should have been more robust and that the Policing around protests isn’t quite where it needs to be. It was interesting to learn more about why this is and the Officers I spoke to outlined a number of ways in which the law can be changed to allow them to take a more robust approach. I know this is an important area for many of my constituents, rest assured I will remain on the case. I also took the opportunity to thank the Police for their work over the past few weeks. A large number of Police Officers have been injured and have shown great bravery in looking to protect the public.
Following last week’s meeting with Highways England on implementing the speed limit solution to the closures of the Orwell Bridge, I have now written to City University of London about the urgency of getting their wind tunnel up and running to complete the final safety checks.
The wind tunnel is currently closed and I do have concerns that this could become an issue which causes the timeline for implementing the solution to slip. That’s why it’s important we get on top of this now.
I appreciate that City University is dealing with Covid-19 pressures but I have asked the President of the University to ensure that work starts on this important piece of work as soon as possible. We mustn’t go into the windiest months of another year without a solution in place.
Today I asked the Leader of the House about the 10 people who failed to attend Court last month in connection with the horrific mass brawl on Norwich Road in November. The behaviour of these 10 individuals demonstrates an appalling level of contempt for our justice system and all those in Ipswich who were affected by the incident.
I have been in contact with Suffolk Constabulary since these 10 individuals failed to attend, including to offer my support in getting the full force of the Government behind catching these fugitives. While one of the 10 has now been arrested, the other 9 are suspected to have fled to another EU country.
That’s why I urged the Leader of the House to work with colleagues across Government and with Suffolk Constabulary to bring the remaining 9 back to this country to face our courts, including in the issuing of any European Arrest Warrants if necessary. Bringing fugitives like this back must also be something we can continue to do after the EU transition period is over, especially if those who fled did so under Freedom of Movement rules.
I am glad that the Leader of the House shares my outrage and that of many Ipswich residents about what has happened in this case and that he’ll be raising it with the Home Secretary shortly. I’ll continue to work with the police and with Ministers to ensure that those who have flouted our justice system are brought back to justice and receive the appropriate punishment for this serious crime.
Earlier today I used an urgent question on the UK-EU negotiations to ask the Cabinet Office Minister about the unacceptable increase in illegal immigration across the English Channel and how we can take a more robust approach after the transition period has ended. Here’s what I said:
“We have recently seen an unacceptable increase in the number of illegal migrants entering this country through unauthorised crossing of the English Channel. Does my Right Honourable Friend agree with me that being tied to EU rules and regulations during the transition period makes the return of illegal migrants more difficult and that this underlines the importance of ending it on the 31st December? And will he assure me and my constituents today, that the UK will rebuff any EU attempt to make a new deal on illegal migration contingent on us conceding in other areas of negotiations?