Tory MPs have voted down a move by Labour to implement footballer Marcus Rashford’s plan to extend free school meals for poorer children over holiday periods.
The defeat came after Boris Johnson and Downing Street signalled they would not U-turn on the issue.
Keir Starmer’s motion called for free school meals to be funded outside term time to ensure vouchers and support were available for pupils right through until the Easter holidays next year.
But it was defeated by 322 votes to 261. The majority of 61 was less than the government’s 80-strong majority. Some 38 Tories did not register a vote.
Commons education committee chair Rob Halfon and backbencher Anne-Marie Morris were among just five rebels who voted for the Labour plan.
Both the Welsh government and the Scottish government have already put in place funding for the holiday extension.
Rashford reacted to the vote by vowing not to give up his campaign. He tweeted: “These children are the future of this country. They are not just another statistic. And for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”
Time we worked together. pic.twitter.com/xFPsgBiPQC
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 21, 2020
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said after the vote: “Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have badly let down more than one million children and their families.
“No child should go hungry over the holidays, but the Government is blocking the action needed to prevent this.
“We pay tribute to Marcus Rashford and others for shining a spotlight on this incredibly important issue. This campaign is not over and the government must reconsider.”
During prime minister’s question time, Johnson repeatedly refused requests from MPs to agree to the extension for school holidays.
And his spokesperson made clear afterwards that there would be no shift.
Asked if there was any change in policy, the spokesperson replied: “No.”
The spokesperson added: “While schools continue to play an...