North Devon’s MP has issued a statement following comments suggesting local businesses offering free meals for children should not seek any more government support.
Selaine Saxby said her post on the Facebook group North Devon News on Friday evening (October 23) ‘does not accurately convey’ her views.
Businesses across North Devon have stepped up to offer free meals for children who need them during the half-term break.
It came after both Ms Saxby and Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox voted against a Labour motion to offer free school meals during holidays until Easter 2021.
Ms Saxby’s post, which has since been since deleted, said: “I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support.”
The post was met with anger across social media, with screenshots of the post shared widely, while North Devon Liberal Democrat said Ms Saxby had ‘attacked the hospitality industry’.
In a statement released on Saturday morning, Ms Saxby said she regretted ‘any offence which may have been caused’.
She said: “The portrayal of my recent comments on social media, out of context, does not accurately convey my views – I of course deeply regret any offence which may have been caused.
“I am proud that we live in a community where local businesses are keen to help others and it is this widespread community spirit that has got us through the first wave of the pandemic.”
She said she had been ‘inundated with emails of an abhorrent nature’ following the vote, and added: “My door is open however I will not work with personal attacks and threatening behaviour towards myself and my team.”
Her statement continued: “I regularly work with local food banks and these have been in contact with me over an entirely different matter. I continue to work hard with these organisations and the wider community to ensure their voices are heard and I can represent any concerns.”
She added: “My first year as an MP has been an unusual one, however I have spent it championing our local businesses, families and our hospitality industry to ensure they get all the help necessary to get through this pandemic together.”
North Devon Liberal Democrats had called for Ms Saxby to apologise following her initial comments.
Lib Dem spokesman for North Devon, Alex White, said: “Not only has she tried to justify the fact that she has voted in a way that could see children go hungry, but she’s also attacked the hospitality industry in North Devon who have taken one of the biggest beatings during this pandemic, but still step forward to support children.
“Volunteers and businesses have stepped up to help some of the poorest children because she and her Conservative colleagues are too heartless to bother.”