Keir Starmer has hailed the government’s changed position on free school meals during the summer holidays as “another welcome U-turn from Boris Johnson”.
In an announcement just hours before Labour was expected to force a vote on the matter in Starmer’s first opposition day debate, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson outlined a new “Covid summer food fund”.
Johnson was facing pressured from Labour, who had launched a ‘Holidays Without Hunger’ campaign over the weekend, and footballer Marcus Rashford who sent an open letter to all MPs.
The Labour leader congratulated the 22-year-old Manchester United footballer, saying: “Well done to Marcus Rashford and many others who spoke out so powerfully about this issue.”
Asked whether Rashford had influenced the U-turn, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said he “welcomes his contribution to the debate around poverty” and “respects the fact he has been using his profile as a leading sportsman”.
This is another welcome u-turn from Boris Johnson.
The thought of 1.3 million children going hungry this summer was unimaginable.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) June 16, 2020
Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey commented: “This is a welcome U-turn from the government and a victory for the 1.3 million children who were at risk of going hungry this summer.
“It is thanks to the amazing work of Marcus Rashford and campaigners that the government has had no choice but to reverse their decision.
“The government must now confirm that this new money will be for the direct provision of free school meals to all eligible children.”
1.3 million children are expected to benefit from the £120m in additional funding. Payments will be made through vouchers valued at £15 per week, which will be given to parents at the end of the school term before the holiday is due to start.