A CONSERVATIVE MP has doubled-down on his colleague’s claim that providing free meals for children results in that food being “sold or traded for drugs”.

Mark Jenkinson, who represents Workington in Cumbria, made the comments while coming to the defence of Ben Bradley, the Tory MP who yesterday suggested providing free school meals “effectively” handed cash directly to “crack dens and brothels”.

Bradley replied to a tweet which read: “£20 cash direct to a crack den and brothel really sounds like the way forward with this one …” by saying: “That’s what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did …”

Bradley’s comment has caused widespread outrage, with Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner saying that such “stigmatisation of working class families is disgraceful and disgusting”.

Now, Jenkinson has come to his Tory colleagues defence, accusing Rayner of being “disingenuous” or clueless.

READ MORE: Ben Bradley claims controversial free school meals tweet 'taken out of context'

He said: “Here, @AngelaRayner is either being disingenuous or really hasn’t a clue what goes on in her constituency. I hope for the sake of her constituents it’s the former.

“I know in my constituency that, as tiny as a minority it might be, food parcels are sold or traded for drugs.”

Jenkinson, who in 2015 stood as a UKIP candidate before claiming his seat for the Tory party as part of the fall of the “red wall” in 2019, added: “And that’s parcels, not vouchers - which have greater monetary value.

“As I said, a relatively minuscule number - but we can’t pretend it doesn’t happen. Pretending, to score political points, helps no-one.”

Chris Law, the SNP MP for Dundee West, said that Jenkinson’s claims were “seriously bonkers”.

Law said: “This is seriously bonkers. Suggesting drug dealers new currency is penne pasta, tinned beans and corned beef is extremely unlikely and doesn’t explain why [the Government should] punish millions of children and their struggling parents in England by voting against free school meals.”

READ MORE: Douglas Ross's free school meals tweet comes back to haunt him after Commons vote

Channel 4’s Darshna Soni was among the journalists asking Jenkinson for evidence of his claim, which has so far not been provided.

Soni wrote: “Hi Mr Jenkinson, have you any examples of food parcels being sold or traded for drugs?

“I’ve been reporting on the issue of holiday hunger and #FreeSchoolMeals for a while now, I’ve never come across this. Would like to interview your constituents if you know of any actual cases?”

Liverpool court reporter Joe Thomas added: “I have not heard of dealers accepting food parcels for drugs in years of crime reporting.

“I am well aware, however, of criminals exploiting hunger to manipulate vulnerable people, including children. It is tragic. It is common. It is more common after a decade of brutal austerity.”

Meanwhile, a third Tory MP has come under fire for her comments on the free school meals debate.

In a post that was later deleted, North Devon Conservative MP Selaine Saxby said she hoped any businesses providing free food to children would not claim any further aid from Westminster.

She said: "I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown that they are able to give food away for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support."

Saxby's comments have also sparked a wave of outrage.

North Devon Lib Dem spokesperson Alex White said one in three children in parts of North Devon live in poverty.

He added: "I am stunned at what I have read from Saxby. 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."