Romsey’s MP voted against a bid to have free school meals for vulnerable children extended through the coming holidays.

Conservative Caroline Nokes rejected Labour’s motion on Wednesday night, which called for the scheme to be extended over the school holidays until Easter 2021 and was defeated by 261 votes to 322 – a majority of 61 for the Government.

If approved, the motion would have provided 1.4m disadvantaged children in England with £15-a-week food vouchers.

The campaign was backed by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford, who himself endured food poverty as a child. He had called for MPs to put aside party politics before the vote.

Romsey and Southampton North’s MP defended her decision to oppose the plan, saying:

“I have a view that the current system with redeemable vouchers is bureaucratic and expensive.

“The sheer mechanism to organise and then issue vouchers to eligible families is utter nonsense.

“It makes much more sense, in my view, to give an uplift to universal credit commensurate with the value of the vouchers, to those families with the qualifying child element of universal credit.”

Romsey Advertiser: Mp for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline NokesMp for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes

Ms Nokes added: “I do appreciate there are arguments around making sure the vouchers are used for food, as opposed to anything else, but I just feel that food vouchers do not buy school shoes or a winter coat, which at this time of year are also a priority. Raising children is difficult and expensive.”

Alan Dowden, a Lib Dem who represents the Valley Park ward on the borough council, feels the Romsey MP’s constituents will lose out after the vote.

He said: “There are lots of areas in Romsey which are still described as deprived, so the people in these places which she [Caroline Nokes] is responsible for are going to lose out.

“Every child needs one good meal a day at the very least, so if they can provide meals during the week then why can’t they do it when the children are on holiday?”