Tory MPs across London have rejected criticism for voting against a proposal to extend free school meals into the half-term holidays, with one denying that Conservative MPs had “voted against ‘feeding starving kids'”.

It comes after a Labour motion to extend free school meals over the holidays, following a highly-publicised campaign to end child food poverty by Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, was voted down in the Commons, on Wednesday.

South-east London’s trio of Tory councillors – consisting of Gareth Bacon (Orpington), Bob Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) and Bob Stewart (Beckenham) – were among the 61-vote majority which kiboshed the move.

News of the vote has dominated news headlines since Wednesday, with many constituents both in south-east London and across the UK voicing their anger after the proposal was dumped amid growing poverty linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Orpington member Mr Bacon told the local democracy reporting service Labour’s motion was a non-binding move “designed to get headlines”.

The first-term MP also said the Government had pumped £9 billion into the welfare system this year as well as billions into various job-keeper and support schemes during the pandemic.

“The Labour Party’s motion was designed to get headlines, not help families. It was a non-binding vote which would not change the law or compel the Government to act,” the MP and Bexley councillor said.

“No Conservative MP has voted against ‘feeding starving kids’, in fact we’ve been delivering new multi-billion pound measures to support struggling families.”

He said Boris Johnson’s Government had put billions of pounds towards helping families during the the holidays.

“Injecting £9 billion into the welfare system is a targeted way of helping struggling families pay for children’s meals during school holidays,” he said.

“To ensure no child goes hungry, the Government has increased Universal Credit by £1,000 this year. By injecting an extra £9 billion into our welfare system, we are supporting struggling families throughout the year, including school holidays.

“That’s on top of the £200 billion the Government has spent to protect millions of people’s wages, jobs and businesses throughout this crisis.

Mr Stewart and Mr Neill have both been contacted for comment.

Greenwich and Lewisham are among the local authorities who have announced or are continuing schemes to help with school meals over the half-term break so far.