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On Wednesday night, (October 21st), MPs controversially voted against a motion set out by the Labour Party to offer free school meals during the holidays, lasting through until Easter 2021 to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The end result was 322 votes to 261.
Amid much anger over the result of the vote, recent figures have now resurfaced showing that UK tax payers fork out as much as £57,000 every week in order to subsidise food and drink for Westminster politicians.
In the new petition, launched on 38 Degrees by Portia Lawrie, it is demanded that the government stops taking public money for MPs' meals, adding that "any and all food and drink in parliamentary establishments be chargeable to MPs at market rates."
And it has already been signed more than 233,202 times (at the time of writing), with under 70,000 more signatures required to reach its goal of 300,000.
The petition reads: "MPs have voted against extending free school meals into the holidays for the poorest children in the UK, in the middle of a pandemic.
"They should under no circumstances benefit from free or subsidised meals out of public funds themselves. If the public purse cannot afford to feed the poorest in our society, why are we feeding those least in need?
"Already well paid public servants, set to receive yet another generous pay increase, whilst millions face hardship, job losses and poverty, do not need the public to pay for their food and drink."
It signs off: "Public funds should be spent on those most in need of them."
It's no surprise that the campaign has gained such momentum, seeing as MPs were just given a pay rise of £3000, despite the horrific debt and financial turmoil the rest of the country has found itself in.
And guess what they're eating for next to nothing, thanks to the tax payer? Just a glance at the Members' Dining Room menu online shows a whole host of delicacies, from ribeye steak and salmon to leek and wild mushroom bread and butter pudding.
Oh, and don't forget the roasted cauliflower and tarragon 'steaklet'...all for under a tenner.
MPs are also allowed to claim up to £25 per night back in food expenses if they are staying overnight outside of their constituency, meaning many get the gourmet menu above for free despite their generous salaries.
BBC News report that around 1.3 million children in England claimed for free school meals 2019, and 900,000 more have used the service since the start of the pandemic.
Backing the campaign, LBC producer Ava Evans wrote: "MPs, earning between £77k-150k, have their meals subsidised in Parliament.
"In 2018, subsidising food cost the *taxpayer* £4.4 million. Sorry, kids."
Meanwhile, Gary Lineker went against BBC's own impartiality guidelines to have his say.
"Yesterday they voted against helping to feed our hungriest children during a pandemic," he wrote. "Never thought I'd tweet that."
The motion was only backed by five Conservative MPs, including Caroline Ansell, the MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon.
MPs, earning between £77k-150k, have their meals subsidised in Parliament.
In 2018, subsidising food cost the *taxpayer* £4.4 million
- Ava-Santina (@AvaSantina) October 22, 2020
Standing down as a parliamentary aide in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, she said: "In these unprecedented times, I am very concerned to be doing all we can to help lower-income families and their children who are really struggling due to the impact of the virus."
As former UKIP leader Nigel Farage penned on Twitter: "If the government can subsidise Eat Out to Help Out, not being seen to give poor kids lunch in the school holidays looks mean and is wrong."
Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford - who had been campaigning for the free school meals for months - has also voiced his support.
He was spotted volunteering at the Greater Manchester depot of FareShare - a charity responsible for distributing surplus supermarket food to those who need it most - after the ruling was announced.
In a statement made ahead of the petition, Rashford urged MPs to "put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics and... focus on the reality."
He added: "A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter".
Click here to sign the petition yourself.
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