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'Meaner even than the master in Oliver Twist's workhouse' - Norwich MP blasts government's free school meal plans

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

A Norwich MP has blasted the government's plans to change how deprived families access free school meals.

The government wants to introduce a means test for those on Universal Credit, which would mean only families with a net earning of up to £7,400 - or £18,000 to £24,000 once benefits are taken into account - would be entitled to free school meals.

Previously, the government introduced a temporary system which meant any child whose family received Universal Credit was eligible.

Labour has claimed one million children would be entitled to free school meals without the proposed changes, though work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said an extra 50,000 children would benefit under the plans.

In a debate on the issue in parliament on Monday, Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said: “Meaner even than the master in Oliver Twist’s workhouse, the secretary of state seeks not just to stop the second helping, but to stop any meal at all.

“I ask her to come to Norfolk. If these changes go through, 12,500 children will be denied a hot midday meal.

“How does that square the circle in relation to making work pay? Please, can she tell us - anything?”

Mrs McVey accused the opposition of making up the facts, having “totally lost the argument”, and said the government was seeking to deliver “the most modern, forward-thinking, flexible benefit in the world”.

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