Buckland exposes Labour’s ‘party political point-scoring’ in fiery clash on ITV Peston
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Justice Secretary Robert Buckland ripped into Labour MPs for trying to politicise the debate on free school meals. Speaking to Robert Peston on ITV last night, Mr Buckland insisted that the Government remains focused on a sustainable solution to Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign. He hit out at politicians who trying “to bicker in a party political way and criticise each other”.
Mr Buckland was quizzed about the free school meals campaign led by Marcus Rashford, amid mounting pressure for Boris Johnson to U-turn.
The Justice Secretary said: “Look, I think it is easy to come up with a glib answer to this.
“I think everyone has the right intention here and frankly for all of us to bicker in a party political way and criticise each other doesn’t help the situation.
“I pay tribute to everyone who has got involved – Marcus Rashford and everybody – because their intentions are the right ones.”
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He added: “But, the devil is in the detail.
“We need to make sure that our response we make is one that can be sustained so we don’t end up in another cliff-edge.”
Last night, Mr Rashford’s petition calling for children from poor families in England to get free meals in school holidays surged past a million signatures.
The Manchester United and England forward wants the Government to provide free lunches amid fears over the economic impact of coronavirus restrictions.
In his parliamentary petition, the football star writes that “no child should be going hungry”.
Last week, MPs rejected Labour’s motion to extend the provision of free school meals, with just five Conservative MPs rebelling.
Since the vote, pressure has continued to build on the Government, with several Conservative and Labour councils stepping in to supply meal vouchers for pupils during half-term.
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Labour has threatened a dramatic showdown with No10 by pledging to force another Commons vote if Mr Johnson does not U-turn on his refusal to provide free school meals in England.
England is the outlier in the UK, with administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having already pledged to fund the free school meals programme.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly pointed out that the Government has given councils £63million for families facing financial difficulties due to pandemic restrictions.
The Government has also increased welfare support by £9.3billion.
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