Boris Johnson hints government may move on Marcus Rashford’s campaign before Christmas

Boris Johnson has hinted the government may move on Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign before the Christmas holidays.

The Prime Minister insisted they would do “everything in our power” to ensure no child went hungry through the holidays.

It comes as Boris Johnson’s PR disaster was compounded today when Health Secretary Matt Hancock was publicly contradicted by the football star.

Meanwhile, senior Conservative MPs have started speaking out about the issue as Labour leader Keir Starmer prepares to force another Commons vote on the issue.

During a visit to a hospital in Reading, the Prime Minister said: “We don’t want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this Government – and you are not going to see that.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry this winter during the holidays, that’s obviously something we care about very much”.

The Prime Minister was on a visit to Reading today (Jeremy Selwyn)

The PM praised the work of football ace Rashford but confirmed he had not spoken to him since the summer.

This morning Mr Hancock claimed on TV that the Prime Minister and the Manchester United striker had been discussing the problem.

“There has been communication between the two,” the minister told BBC Breakfast.

But, within minutes, Rashford tweeted: “Hmm, unless he’s referring to the call we had following the U-turn in June?…”

Clearing up the confusion, Mr Johnson added: “I haven’t spoken to Marcus since June but what he is doing is terrific.

“We support the local councils – indeed we fund the local councils and many of the organisations that are helping in this period – but we are also uplifting Universal Credit by £1,000 and we think that is one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time.”

Mr Johnson said he “totally understands” the issue of holiday hunger, adding: “We have to deal with it.”

The PM and his Conservative MPs have faced a fierce backlash since they voted against extending free school meals in England over half-term.

Only five Conservative MPs rebelled against the Government to vote for feeding more than 1.4 million children during school breaks until Easter next year.

Instead, businesses, local authorities and community groups stepped in on the first day of the school break to provide food for hungry children.

They include Conservative run councils such as Kensington and Chelsea, Hillingdon, Medway and Wandsworth.

Warwickshire County Council’s Tory chief Izzi Seccombe told the BBC’s Radio 4’s Today Programme that the Government’s funding from June had all been spent.

She told BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme: “Yes we’ve spent that money, as I say over half-a-million pounds has been spent already.”

Asked if they would be able to further fund free school meals, she added: “It’s tight.”

Former minister Tobias Ellwood said it would be “churlish” not to act. Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin warned that the Government had “misunderstood the mood of the country” and would probably have to think again.

Former Tory children’s minister Tim Loughton, who abstained in last week’s vote on the issue, said he would vote against the Government if it came to the Commons again.

Fellow Tory and former Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes told the BBC the Government needed to rethink its policy. Asked if ministers should take another look, she said: “Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any doubt about them having to take another look at it. I would argue that they need to find a better mechanism than vouchers.”

The government points out that Universal Credit had been increased by £20 a week while £63 million has already been provided by central Government to local authorities to support them.


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