MPs removed from food poverty charity's board following free school meals vote row

A former shadow education minister has said she is “deeply upset” after she and three other MPs were removed from the board of a food poverty charity following a row over the parliamentary vote on free school meals.

Feeding Britain has announced a “restructure” of its board that has seen former shadow education minister Emma Lewell-Buck removed from the board, along with fellow Labour MP Liz Kendall, SNP MP Chris Stephens and Conservative Jo Gideon.

They will instead form a “cross-party parliamentary council” to support the charity.

The move follows calls for Gideon to stand down as a trustee after she voted with 321 other MPs to quash a motion in the House of Commons calling for free school meals vouchers to be provided during school holidays.

Lewell-Buck, who co-founded the charity with former Labour MP Frank Field in 2015, called publicly for Gideon to go last week, stating that her actions did not fit the charity’s mission statement.

Speaking to Schools Week today, Lewell-Buck, a former shadow children’s minister, said she was “deeply upset” to no longer be on the board “of a charity that I helped build and have been on the board of for five years”.

The move by the government to vote against the free school meals motion last week has prompted a furious row, with Conservative MPs accused of failing to feed hungry children and Labour accused of playing politics on the issue.

Following the vote, which was part of a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford to extend free school meal provision, Gideon defended her decision to vote against in a statement on her Facebook page.

She said the motion had “no legal standing” and that opposition day debates were “used as political tools to make the governing party look nasty and to grab headlines”.

“Nobody has said that children should go hungry and any suggestion that an MP would think so is deeply divisive, unhelpful and utterly misleading,” she said.

Today, a spokesperson for Gideon said that she “continues to represent the Feeding Britain charity from the new parliamentary council”.

In a statement, Feeding Britain said it “will no longer have MPs on its board of trustees”, and that membership of the parliamentary council will be built up “in the weeks ahead”.

It said its “immediate priority” was to secure a commitment from the government to roll out its holiday activities and food programme nationally. The scheme has been in the pilot phase for the past three years.

“The national rollout of the programme, beginning at Christmas, would make a major contribution to the elimination of child hunger.”

The charity’s board is now formed of eight members, including its chair Baroness Boycott, co-founder Frank Field and former Tory MP Heidi Allen. Its president is the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.