BOURNEMOUTH MP Tobias Ellwood has called for cross party cohesion in response to the public free school meals debate, and that “lessons must be learn” ahead of the Christmas holidays.

The government has provided an extra £9bn to help vulnerable families as well as distributing £63m more to local authorities, including £3m to BCP Council.

However the Bournemouth East MP, who voted against a non-binding opposition motion to provide free school meals during the school holidays until Easter 2021, has said that the government should allow exceptional circumstances in order to use the “tried and tested” free school meals scheme during the half term break.

Mr Ellwood said: “What is clear is that there is additional funding is there.

"One of the vehicles for support is well received so we should leverage that and use that programme as it is tried and tested, and we should using some of that £9bn to utilise that.

"Traditionally this isn’t the norm, but it is a different picture to on that we were presented with in March as there is more financial support available."

On Wednesday, the government voted down – by a majority of 61 – a motion put forward by the Labour Party calling on the Conservatives to extend free school meals over the holidays up to and including the Easter break next year.

A campaign, fronted by England footballer Marcus Rashford earlier this year, led to the government changing its policy to allow 1.3 million children in England claim free school meal vouchers during the summer holidays.

However, the government has ruled out extending free meals nationwide beyond term time.

Whilst Tobias Ellwood says he has been saddened by comments made by MPs within his party, he says the government should do “everything we can” to support struggling schoolchildren and their families.

He said: “The public debate about free school meals shows that people would like to more support so the government should put two and two together.

“This generation of children have been disrupted in a manner we haven’t since the war. We should be doing everything we can cross party to limit any further disruption to these young people

“It has all got very political, I have been very saddened by some of the comments made by some politicians. It takes away from the overall message.

“Lets learn from these mistakes and make sure that support is going to the right places before the Christmas holidays.”