WORCESTER’S MP, who has been criticised along with more than 300 Tory MPs that voted against extending free meals for school children over the holidays, has accused Labour of “playing politics” with Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

Marcus Rashford’s petition to end child food poverty lead to a motion put down by Labour that was defeated by 322 votes to 261 on Wednesday.

Prior to the vote more than 400 Worcester residents had signed the petition, and after the vote the England footballer called for MPs to face the issue head on, adding “these children matter... and for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”

But Robin Walker said it was drafted as a motion no government member could support.

“This is a classic opposition trick," the MP said.

“You put forward a motion you know criticises the government and suggests something positive to do, and when the government votes against you attack them.

“They then use it to suggest Tory MPs don’t want children to eat. We have actually done more than any government in history to provide not only free schools meals but activities during the summer holidays. We voted against because we disagreed with the criticism inherent in the motion.

“Labour are using this cynically. It (the motion) criticised the government, if you voted for it therefore you criticised your own record.

“Marcus Rashford’s was a successful campaign to make sure free school meals were provided during the summer holidays and they were, and Marcus Rashford received a MBE as a result of that. He deserves credit.

"Unfortunately this motion was more about party political point scoring than about serving the needs of children.”

Harriett Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire, said: “I am proud that the government has brought in free school meals for all infants, and when schools were closed earlier this year, we introduced a new emergency supermarket voucher scheme for children who would normally get a free meal in school.

“We’ve extended free school meal eligibility to 50,000 more children, extended breakfast clubs and since the start of the coronavirus crisis we’ve added over £9 billion to the welfare budget. This has increased Universal Credit by £1,000 a year.

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“We’ve increased the Local Housing Allowance, set up a fund to help families struggling with rent, created a £63 million fund for councils to use for local welfare assistance and awarded £16 million to food charities.

“Now that schools are back, children are getting a free school meal, and low income families are awarded extra money in the welfare system to budget for the additional cost of feeding their children during half term.”