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On 21st October Mr Burghart voted AGAINST providing an extension to the provision of free meals for children in need of them but the Prime Minister U turned over the weekend thereby saving Mr Burghart from the need to explain why he took the decision to ignore the needs of hungry children. The questions he chose not to repsond to can be found on the “Free School Meals” page, link above.

However, other issues remain and THE QUESTIONS ARE IN BLUE.

8/12/20 Update. Well, “No update” to be accurate. Nothing heard from Mr Burghart following his misleading and inaccurate “…there was no U-turn…” letter but this is the norm and I will keep asking.

One year ago this week http://www.change.org published the results of their People Power Index which was “a health check of how Parliament is working and how our MPs are listening to, and engaging with, their constituents“  This assessment was made by analysing performance in a number of areas one being “3. How an MP listens to the public. An MP’s top priority is their constituency….””and Mr Burghart’s position was…..648th out of the 650 MPs in the commons.  So I suppose I should be impressed that I actually got a reply. Unfortunately it wasn’t a reply to the questions I had asked but it was a reply.

27/11/20 Update I have recieved a response from Mr Burghart – there is a link to it in the menu. In response I have sent the following. Quite long I’m afraid but so was Mr Burghart’s letter but it didn’t answer my questions unfortunately.

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 2020 at 08:42
Subject: Free school Meals and MPS dining subsidy.
To: Alex Burghart MP <alex.burghart.mp@parliament.uk>

Dear Mr Burghart

Many thanks for your response to my questions about free school meals for children and subsidised meals for MPs.

Free school meals:
You mention a “Holiday Hunger scheme” but I can’t find any mention of this on the GOV.UK website but it is mentioned on the GOV.WALES web site. Could you provide me with the details, or direct me to, the information about the scheme please.

You state in your letter “There has been no U-turn; this is funding which has always been available from Government before the pandemic or Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

I found this somewhat surprising for the following reasons:

On 16/6/20 the current Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson said (Hansard);

“We have understood that, in holiday time, there is a need to offer a wide range of support. This summer, tens of thousands of disadvantaged children will receive additional support through our holiday activities and food programme, which is available thanks to £9 million of Government funding.”

Additional funding was provided after the government’s first U-turn in June as a result of Mr Rashfird’s campaign. This was widely reported and is not disputed.

“Boris Johnson makes U-turn on free school meals through summer after Marcus Rashford plea Government has announced new ‘Covid summer food fund’ to cover six-week summer holiday for children who qualify for free school meals,” Daily Telegraph 16/6/20

“Marcus Rashford: Food voucher U-turn after footballer’s campaign,” BBC, 16/6/20.

“Boris Johnson to provide free school meal vouchers in major U-turn after Marcus Rashford campaign,” Independent, 16/6/20

There are many more similar reports which suggests that your claim that “…this is funding which has always been available from Government before the pandemic or Marcus Rashford’s campaign.” is incorrect.  If it had been available no campaign would have been needed and the government would not have had to do a U-turn. Addition funding was clearly allocated after the start of the pandemic and was available for the school summer holidays. However, the scheme was not extended to cover the Autumn half-term so no free meals were available for children in need over that period.

The Secretary of State for Education then spoke in the house on 21.10.20 and confirmed that there had been a change after the initial help (discussed above) was issued and that it had now come to an end.  He said;

“However, free school meals have only ever been intended to provide support during term-time periods while children are engaging in activity and learning.”

“During the unprecedented and unpredictable period at the start of the pandemic, it was right that extra measures were taken to provide free school meals during the holidays, but we are in a different position now that we have welcomed all pupils back to school.”

“Free school meals are, and always have been, about supporting children with a meal to help them to learn when they are at school or, indeed, currently at home learning. However, it is our support through universal credit and our comprehensive welfare system that supports families”

At PMQs on 4/11/20 the Prime Minister was asked by Labour MP Gareth Thomas “So will the Prime Minister now commit to do the right thing at Christmas and extend free schools to cover that period too?” but the PM chose not to reply thereby confirming that there was no support in place if there had of been he would have mentioned it.

The government later confirmed that the additional support that Mr Williamson referred to, and which had been provided, would not be extended. This too was reported widely;

MPs have rejected a plan to extend free school meals into the school holidays by 322 votes to 261. The Labour motion, which was defeated by a majority of 61, would have extended provision of hot food for children until Easter 2021. Boris Johnson had whipped Tory MPs to vote against the plan, arguing that it was not the job of schools to ‘regularly provide food during the school holidays’. Independent 21/10/20. You voted against this motion.

Boris Johnson has defended his refusal to extend free school meals for children in England over the half-term holiday, saying he was “very proud” of the government’s support so far.” BBC, 26/10/20

Boris Johnson faces Tory revolt over free school meals Almost a 100 Tory MPs are sharing furious messages over the Government’s handling of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign,”  Daily Telegraph, 26/10/20

Tory MPs threaten to join Labour bid to force U-turn on free school meals as they warn PM has misunderstood the public mood”, Independant, 26/10/20

Children’s Commissioner likens row to ‘Oliver Twist novel

More than 2,000 physicians from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health sign letter. The open letter calls on the government to rethink its refusal to extend scheme

Footballer is calling for meals to be funded over school holidays until Easter 2021” All reported on Mail-on-Line, 25/10/20.

There were special arrangements in place and these were not extended despite the pressure on the government to do so.

On 8/11/20, after the half-term holiday and another campaign led by Mr Rashford, the government performed another U-turn and agreed to provide more funding for free school meals during the Christmas holidays.  This too was reported widely;

“Tory fury over free school meal “U-turn” as MPs accuse No 10 of handing apparent victory to Labour. The Government will spend more than £400 million to support poor children,” Daily Telegraph 8/11/20. According to this headline the conservative MPs seemed more concerned about losing the argument to Labour than hungry children.

Ministers eat their words over Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign.”, Daily Telegraph 8/11/20

Marcus Rashford forces Boris Johnson into second U-turn on child food poverty. The PM called the footballer on Saturday night to confirm latest about-face for the government,” the Guardian, 8/11/20.

The U.K. government agreed to fund free meals for the poorest children over the winter period in a major policy reversal. The move follows a sustained campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford against child poverty,” www.politico.eu  8/11/20

There were many more reports like these.

This raises the following questions;

1: Why do you claim; “There has been no U-turn; this is funding which has always been available from Government prior to the pandemic or Marcus Rashford’s campaign.” when this is not the case?  The funding was made available as a result of the pandemic and there were, in fact, two U-turns by the government. Lets not forget that you voted against extending provisions for additional free school meals so must have know what was going on.

2: Can I ask you to answer my original question which you have not yet done and that was; “Would you like to give your explanation why you voted against children in need getting a free meal which would cost just £2.30 while you enjoy this subsidy (meal subsidy – see below) (and on a salary in excess of £80k p.a.)

3: Does your letter not breach the Conservative Party Code of Conduct in the following areas?;

5: Openness – ….. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

6: Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful.

7: Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour.

  • lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance;
  • treat others in a professional and straightforward manner;
  • act with honesty and probity and in a manner which upholds the reputation and values of the Conservative Party. Such duty is fundamental. Conduct which the public may reasonably perceive as undermining a representative’s honesty and probity is likely to diminish trust and confidence placed in them, and the Party, by the public;

MP’s subsidised meals.

I note your comments on the effect of the pandemic on the canteens and restaurants in the House of Commons which are the same as for all establishments that are outside of the house. However, my question had nothing to do with the effect of the pandemic but referred to the situation that applied under normal circumstances.

I note that you are “heartened” by the reduction in running costs of the canteens but that has nothing to do with the issue I raised.

I note your comment that 15,000 people can get access to the canteens but I suspect that there isn’t room for 15,000 people at any one time but you fail to advise how many people would normally use the canteens.  However, this too has nothing to do with the question I asked.

I note that alcohol is no longer being served but that has nothing to do with the question I asked.

I note that the prices are checked against establishments outside of the house but…..this too has nothing to do with the issue I raised.

You do admit that the service runs at a loss, thank you for confirming that but I don’t think that was ever in doubt.

You state that “Catering services for the House of Commons are provided by an in-house team who do not provide a subsidised service in the commercial sense of the word.”  I am afraid I have no idea what “in the commercial sense of the word” means. What I do understand is that if you have a lunch which costs £25 to produce and you pay £15 you have received a subsidy of £10.  This isn’t rocket science and I’d be very surprised if any of your constituents didn’t understand exactly what was going on. I note that other members of staff (but not 15,000 as suggested) also benefit from the subsidy but I suspect the vast majority of them are not earning £83,000 p.a.

4: Can I ask that you answer my original question which was: Do you think MPs should receive subsidised meals when they are at work? 

 I look forward to your response.
Rgds
Chris Johnson.

24/11/20 Update. The following has been sent to Mr Burghart today. Still no response from him to any of the questions asked.

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2020 at 09:09
Subject: The PMs Environmental Statement.
To: Alex Burghart MP <alex.burghart.mp@parliament.uk>
Mr Burghart,

I hope you are well.
I have still not received any answers from you to any of the questions asked, not even the “yes/no” answers but I am sure I will soon. Unfortunately, another issue has been created by the statement by the Prime Minister last week when he announced his ten-point plan for a “green industrial revolution” which will create 250,000 British jobs and allow the UK to make progress in eradicating our contribution to climate change.

Given that you have consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change can you advise if you will be supporting the Prime Ministers plans?  I know you are busy so a simple “Yes” or “no” will do.

You will, of course, be aware that your voting record, and other details, are available for all to see at www.TheyWorkForYou.com

Many thanks.
Chris J

19/11/20 Update. The following has been sent to Mr Burghart.

Mr Burghart
I hope you are well.
Have you had a chance to look at the questions I raised earlier yet? If not can you simply answer one question with a “yes” or a “no”, hopefully, you will be able to find the time for that.
Do you think MPs should receive subsidised meals when they are at work?  Yes or no?
Rgds, Chris Johnson

09/11/20 Update. The following has been received from Mr Burghart’s office:

From: Kay Bellwood kay.bellwood@parliament.uk
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 2020 at 19:29
Subject: Re: Current Rules (Case Ref: AB10059)
Dear Mr Johnson,
Thank you for your email to Alex Burghart MP. The contents have been noted and Alex will respond but he is currently prioritising those constituents in greatest need of his assistance.
Yours sincerely,
Kay Bellwood

What could possibly be more important for an MP than responding to questions about subsidised lunches…..for MPs, numerous inflation breaking pay rises…..for MPs, and somebody …an MP (and also a cabinet minister)….breaking the curfew imposed on the population, some of whom have been arrested and fined for doing so? If the cabinet minister was in the bar just to test his eyesight before driving home then just say so, we’re used to that now.

Surely he realises that this is not just going to go away.

Tax Payers contribution to MPs meals.

It is known that the restaurants used by MPs when in the House of Commons are subsidised by tax payers. In the past members have claimed that this is not a subsidy but the facts are there for all to see. For every £10 spent by an MP in one of the restaurants £7.60 is paid to the restaurant out of public funds to pay for the MPs under payment i.e. the difference between the amount paid by the MP and the higher cost of the meal. If the MPs paid what the meal actually cost no money would need to be contributed by taxpayers. This is a subsidy. The total amount paid to the restaurants last year for the meals taken by MPs was £1.7 million.

Can you tell us if you think that MPs should received £1.7M towards their meals and if so why?

MPs proposed pay rise.

There are ongoing discussions about MPs awarding themselves a 3% increase to their £82k salaries. This will cost £1.95M.

Social workers and nurses (who all MPs no doubt stood in the street and clapped every Thursday evening earlier in the year) have been awarded nothing.

Between 2010 and 2017, average teacher salaries in primary schools fell by £2,900 or 7%, while in secondaries they dropped by £2,700 (6%) in 2016-17 prices. (Times Educational Supplement).

In May this year Matt Hancock stated that nurses pay had gone up by 15% which was challeneged (by fullfact.org) but no evidence was supplied by his department to comfirm this. It was incorrect.

In 2010, a newly qualified constable’s starting salary was £23,000 and it is now £24,200 an increase of 4.3% over 10 years but if you factor in inflation this amounts to a 14% fall in pay (fullfact.org).

Teachers pay during the period 2010-2017 fell by 10% in real terms (OECD).

The Office of National Statistics (www.ons.gov.uk) advise that the nationally salaries have fallen 0.9% over the last year.

During the “Period of Austerity” MPs have enjoyed 8, yes 8, pay rises over the last 10 years, i.e. during the “Period of Austerity”, worth 23% in total (www.thelondoneconomic.com). The last rise awarded was 3.1% in April 2020, which was over three times the inflation rate of 0.9%.

Several groups have been awarded pay rises following the easing of the the “period of austerity” but the proposed 3% rise for MPs is the largest being made.

Do you think you’ve earned this rise? Have you done more than the nurses and social care workers who are getting nothing? Or more than the rest of the population whose wages are down by 1%?

“We are all in this together”…or are we?

Matt Hancock was seen in a bar in the house of commons after the curfew time imposed on the rest of us prior to the latest lock down. Despite having been asked 30 times if he was there he has not replied. I think we all know the answer don’t we?

Would you like to share your views on this situation especially the situation where a cabinet minister can just deny he is accountable to the electrorate by not answering a question?

A reader of this page has pointed out that this looks very much like a breach of items 1, 4, 5 and 6 of the Conservative Code of Conduct.

Do you agree with the statement that “We are all in this together”?

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