OXFORDSHIRE MPs have spoken out after Conservatives voted down extending free school meals over school holidays. 

Yesterday, MPs voted down footballer Marcus Rashford's bid to extend free school meals for disadvantaged children over the upcoming half-term holiday until the Easter holiday next year.

The proposal, made by Labour, was defeated by 322 votes to 261 votes.

Read here: Over 10,000 kids in Oxfordshire are eligible for free meals

All four of Oxfordshire's Tory MPs voted against the extension free school meals into school holidays.

Labour MP for Oxford East, Anneliese Dodds, and Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla Moran, voted for the extension.

Robert Courts, Witney's Conservative MP, in a statement shown to the Oxford Mail defended his decision to vote against the motion. 

He said: “The Government has provided £9.3 billion extra to help those most in need during the pandemic.

"An additional £63 million has also been made available to local authorities to ensure that targeted support is available to those needing help with food and other essentials.

Read also: Labour slams MP for voting against funding free school meals

“99.9 per cent of state schools are now open, providing normal free school meals.

"Free school meals have always been meant for term time and the best, most sustainable way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit."

He added: “I will continue to work with our local authorities and Government to ensure support is available to those who need it.”

Victoria Prentis, MP for Banbury and North Oxford, who also voted against the extension of free school meals during holidays, said:

“The last few months have highlighted to everybody the importance of access to food.

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"I am not blind to the challenges many children and families are currently facing. I chaired the Taskforce for the Vulnerable throughout the pandemic to coordinate our response and help ensure those most in need could access food and other essential supplies.

“Schools have worked tirelessly during the pandemic. It is neither reasonable nor sustainable to ask them to continue to provide food for pupils outside of term time.

"Free school meals have only ever been meant for eligible pupils during term-time. It is important that these arrangements return.

“It is critical that families get the support they need. The best way to make this happen is not through schools but through the welfare system. An extra £9bn has been put into it to help."

She added: "Local authorities know who are struggling. It is exactly why the Government set up a specific fund of £63 million in June for local authorities to help those most in need to afford food and other essentials.

“I remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the right support is there for those who most need it so that we can get through this pandemic together.”

Labour MP for East Oxford Anneliese Dodds said she was 'deeply disappointed' with the outcome.

The Labour MP added: “No child should go hungry over the holidays. 

“I am deeply disappointed that the Government blocked the action needed to prevent this.

“I pay tribute to Marcus Rashford and others for shining a spotlight on this incredibly important issue. The government must reconsider”

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat for Oxford West and Abingdon, also expressed her frustration.

She said: “Holiday hunger hasn’t gone away since the government’s u-turn over the summer, that much is obvious.

“So I took part in yesterday's debate to make it clear, on behalf of the 725 people who’ve signed Marcus Rashford’s petition in my constituency, as well as families experiencing this themselves, that this is a no-brainer.

“Sadly the Tories didn't change their minds. It's incredibly disappointing that in 2020 we are still arguing over whether a child should go to bed without food or not.”

Conservative MPs John Howell and David Johnston have also been asked for a statement.