TIM LOUGHTON: Misinformation causes unnecessary worry

Tim with Paralympian Sophie Christiansen and students from Worthing High School
Tim with Paralympian Sophie Christiansen and students from Worthing High School

There is a saying that a lie has travelled half-way round the world before the truth has got his boots on. Thus it was that MPs last week were faced with a deluge of outrage in emails and on social media claiming that routine changes to universal credit regulations would result in a million children losing out on free school meals.

In fact no child in receipt of school meals will lose them and actually an additional 50,000 will qualify for them. The universal entitlement to all year one and two children is completely unaffected as well.

Clearly there are some who benefit politically from such misinformation doing the rounds but the real damage is done by causing uncalled-for worry to parents who think they are about to lose something they are not. It was down to the fact checker to give an independent overview of what was actually happening but alas the harm had already been done. Stunts such as this hardly help the image of politics.

On a much more positive front I was lucky enough to be invited to Worthing High School to coincide with a visit from Paralympian equestrian Sophie Christiansen. What an impressive and inspiring ambassador for sport and young people she is. Despite being born two months prematurely with cerebral palsy and suffering a range of other health problems which would have laid most of us low she has won no fewer than eight Olympic gold medals, she has a first class degree in maths, a masters in maths and she fits in working for top investment bank Goldman Sachs part time. She absolutely had the students in the palm of her hand – not to mention the staff, me and a very emotional head teacher who paid tribute to her at the end.

Before the school visit I was able to catch up with staff at Worthing Museum & Art Gallery to hear about their exciting plans to invest in and transform one of our underappreciated jewels. Work could start next year to expand the exhibits and make the whole building much more welcoming and busy – not least to show off more of the nationally acclaimed costume collection. I also suggested the possibility of holding a special exhibition in 2021 to coincide with the Bayeux Tapestry coming to the UK.

There was a good turnout at the Sompting Big Local meeting on Saturday despite the Arctic conditions and really encouraging to hear about the myriad of worthy projects which have benefitted the village from the £100,000-plus invested over the last year. The majority of the £1million allocated to Sompting is still to be used over the remaining years of the grant and we really do need more local residents to make sure it is spent wisely to create a lasting legacy for the village. You can find out more at biglocalsompting.org.uk

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at loughtont@parliament.uk

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