Congratulations must go to Marcus Rashford, a heroic figure - one of five children raised by his working single mother - in promoting the cause of vulnerable and underprivileged children in campaigning for free school meals for kids during half term.

His petition was defeated in the Commons with the PM pointing out that during the pandemic the Chancellor had increased all welfare benefits by £9bn including Universal and Family Credit to the tune of £20 per week and made £63m grants to local councils to help with food shortages.

I am not a heartless person but I find the comments of his opponents in comparing the issue to something from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel as hysterical rhetoric.

Are we really as a nation suffering from Dickensian levels of poverty which our government is deliberately perpetuating? Is that why millions from around the world want to join us? I think not.

I was one of seven children brought up in a weaver’s cottage in Longridge with my parents on a very limited budget yet they spent their money wisely prioritising the essentials and provided all their siblings with food, clothing, an education and instilled within us social values and principals.

These were days when there were no generous social security benefits apart from Family Allowance.

In the light of my upbringing - and I don’t need reminding it was a different era - I firmly believe that feeding poorer children is the responsibility of their parents and it is not up to the state to pick up the tab.

The welfare state is a safety net but it was never meant to replace personal responsibility or discourage self reliance.

It is a hand up not a hand out, it is for the needy not the greedy. Why should any family abrogate responsibility for its children?

I know it is an extreme example but I hear of instances where undernourished children arrive for ‘Breakfast Club’ on empty stomachs whilst their mothers congregate at the school gates still in their pyjamas.This situation must be addressed and the way forward is to concentrate on education and introduce the subject of parenting skills in the school curriculum for the parents of tomorrow.

A final question. Why are absent fathers not included in the debate? On a positive note it is heartening that many local businesses are undertaking to supply children with food during the holidays.

Jim Oldcorn