If any of us were asked should Parliament interview and indeed challenge Dominic Cummings, the answer of course is a very clear YES. In the same way if any of us were asked should they debate the petition raised by Marcus Rashford that would also be YES. Both of these actions took place this week in Parliament. It is however in my view deeply disturbing that the discussion regarding the petition took place over 87 minutes which is not insignificant but it is certainly not sufficient whereas the discussion with Dominic Cummings according to some news sources was 7 hours or 420 minutes which suggests that the view and experience of one person who is already very high in profile terms is 5 times more important than the concerns raised by well over 1million people in our nation. This is not a call that the two elements should not have taken place but surely the time needed to debate the petition should be much closer to the amount of time that Parliament would spend listening to Dominic Cumming. Particularly as the Daily Telegraph has pointed out some of his dishonest or perhaps confused comments that were apparently not challenged when he spoke. I am certainly delighted to read the comments from people such as Catherine McKinnell (Lab) who set out the discussion and is someone needs to be very much thanked. Also there were very good comments from Ian Lavery (Lab), Mhairi Black (SNP), Stephen Timms (Lab), Mick Whitley (Lab), Beth Winter (Lab), Catherine West (Lab), Grahame Morris (Lab), Steven Bonnar (SNP), Ian Byrne (Lab), Naz Shah (Lab), Patricia Gibson (SNP) and Tulip Siddiq (Lab) who was the last person to speak before Vicky Ford the Conservative Minister spoke and sadly as she stated when Catherine West attempted to interrupt her that
I cannot take interventions because we are really short of time, and I want the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) to have time to respond.
Which demonstrates very clearly that there was not enough time for this debate as I am certain that Catherine West and Catherine McKinnell would agree. It would be easy to reproduce some of the positive comments made by all of the people listed above apart from Vicky Ford and the first Conservative MP to speak, Jonathan Gullis who did not make any positive contributions in the context of this theme. However here are the other Conservatives who did not use all of their pieces to say things that would improve this challenge, but these comments with the exception of the last few words from David Simmonds do demonstrate that there is some common ground between all of the parties.
To solve this problem, we have to work together. The idea that Conservative MPs are callous figures who do not care about our young people and are starving our young children is, as I say, the politics of the playground. I hope that we have left those ideas in the last year. Look at where we are now, having rolled out the new holiday activities and food programme. We should look to work together in partnership.Tom Hunt (Con)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) highlighted, it is right that we recognise that there is no real party political disagreement about the need for action on this; there is total cross-party agreement. We need to make sure that we have effective policy responses that make a difference for the better in the lives of our most vulnerable children in this country. We need to focus on what we agree on,David Simmonds (Con)
and in my view, that is what the Government’s policy approach to date has entirely been about.
This is an excellent petition, and I am pleased that we are debating it. It is right to highlight this issue, and it calls for three clear things: expanding access to free school meals; providing meals and activities during holidays, in order to stop holiday hunger; and increasing the value of and expanding the Healthy Start scheme. I thank Marcus Rashford for highlighting the challenges facing families across the United Kingdom, and I agree with his point that it is hard for a child to learn at school if they are hungry.Ben Everitt (Con)
I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) when he says that local authorities are best placed to help the most vulnerable families. However, universal credit, as a stepping-stone to readily available employment at a wage that is enough to get on with the basics of life, is the policy that will help to lift most families out of food insecurity. I look forward to the publication of part 2 of the national food security paper and I welcome the Government’s undertaking to produce a White Paper within six weeks of its delivery. However, when seeking to provide long-term solutions to child hunger, I hope that the review will bear in mind the value and responsibility of parenthood, and make sure that its recommendations support parents in their role as the most important teachers of the next generation.Jerome Mayhew (Con)