THE MP for North East Hampshire has said the PM’s decision to extend the free school meal scheme is “securing a better future for you, your family and the next generation”.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ranil Jayawardena, who is also a trade minister, said that the PM’s scheme “will make sure that the families who really need extra support this winter can access it”, rather than “just handing out food vouchers based on a list of names, ‘ticking a box’ whether or not they are needed”.

Mr Jayawardena had voted against the Labour motion to extend free school meals into October half term, labelling it “reckless politicking”.

But after the government’s U-turn at the weekend, the Conservative MP revealed that almost £3 million would go to Hampshire County Council to support vulnerable children across the county.

He said: “Securing a better future for you, your family and the next generation is central to my mission in Parliament.

“I’m pleased that the Prime Minister has announced the extension of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme for disadvantaged children during next year’s Easter, summer and Christmas school holidays.

“There are, of course, different ideas on how to level up and extend opportunity across the country. It’s my view that we should provide a ‘safety net’, whilst helping people to help themselves and their families for the future – and this is proof that the government is delivering.”

In the plans released at the weekend, it was announced that £400 million will be spent on supporting poor children and their families over the winter, including £170 million of ring-fenced money for councils, of which 80 per cent will go towards food and bills.

There will also be a £16m boost for food banks.

The extra money will pay for the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support families over the season while the Holiday Activities and Food programme will be extended to cover the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks in 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced.

As part of the package, Healthy Start payments, which help expectant mothers and those with young children on low incomes and in receipt of benefits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, are set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021.