Boris Johnson has finally made up his mind to execute the free school meals vouchers for the poorest families over the summer, announcing a new £120m voucher scheme after pressure from footballer Marcus Rashford.
Just hours before Labour was due to force a vote on the issue in the House of Commons, risking a rebellion from Conservative backbenchers, the prime minister’s official spokesman announced a new £120m “Covid summer food fund” for pupils in England.
“Owing to the corona pandemic, the Prime Minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer,” he said.
Boris Johnson was forced to accept the vouchers after ministers repeatedly rejected the idea of extending the scheme over the summer, as they did over the Easter break.
According to Boris Johnson Spokesman, “The prime minister welcomes Marcus Rashford’s contribution to the debate around poverty, and respects the fact that he has been using his profile as a sportsman to highlight important issues.”
He said families entitled to free school meals would receive a one-off voucher at the end of the school term, worth £15 a week for the six-week school break, which they can spend in supermarkets.
Rashford had stepped up his campaign to pressure the UK government into feeding hungry children during the school holidays.
Responding to the Government’s U-turn on school meal vouchers after his
campaign, Rashford said on Twitter: “Just look at what we can do when we
come together, THIS is England in 2020.”
Labour was seeking to maximise the government’s embarrassment and force a U-turn, by using an opposition day debate in the House of Commons to hold a vote on extending the voucher scheme.
Several Conservative backbenchers, including former minister George Freeman, and the chair of the education select committee Robert Halfon, had urged the government to change course.