|Fri 19th January 2018||
School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill
2nd reading: House of Commons
|14 interactions (1,244 words)|
School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Nadhim ZahawiMain Page: Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative - Stratford-on-Avon)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I thank those who, through the usual channels, have ensured that we got a debate today. I have never been more pleased with their activities and with what they have shown us over the last few hours.
The case for the Bill has been made in the country and, as I told the Minister, I intend to be brief. People do not want to hear me; they want to hear him. First, however, I will take a couple of minutes to outline the need for this Bill. In one way it is shocking that a Bill to ensure school meals and fun during school holidays—particularly for the poorest children—is being presented today. I also feel some pride, however, because I see in the Public Gallery people from my constituency who, like many volunteers around the country, have played a huge part in ensuring that children who would otherwise go hungry are fed.
The lesson of that massive example of activity is that the task now is beyond what the voluntary sector can do and the challenge is therefore passed to the Government. I hope that the Minister will take up that challenge in two ways. The Bill seeks to initiate a number of pilots around the country, sponsored by the Government, so that the first moral principle of social action—that we should do something for people who are suffering now—is met. However, we also want the Government—and us as legislators—to learn from that experience and to undertake research activities so that we can see what is the best way to deliver these programmes, with the help of the voluntary sector and, above all, what the impact is of such programmes on children’s weight—weight is often lost during the school holidays—and on their ability to maintain the educational advancements achieved during the school term.
This is a historic opportunity, and the first time for more than 100 years that this House has discussed a school meals Bill. As I said, it is not me that people want to hear but the Minister, so I am happy to end my speech now.
I entirely understand why the Minister does not want to go down a primary legislative route, but the main aim of the Bill was to invite the Government to match the extraordinary efforts of the voluntary sector and undertake their own pilots. Equally important, however, is the research side. We need to understand what is the best way of delivering this service to poorer children, and also to understand the educational consequences of such a programme. I hope that, in the not too distant future, we shall be ready to greet the Minister when he rises to introduce his own Bill based on the pilots and the research. As he knows, there is massive support for my Bill on both sides of the House, not least his own side.
Will the pilots take place this year? In Hull we are already trying to plan for a scheme to be in place in the summer, and it would be nice to know whether we could apply for funds to conduct one of the pilots.