A TOP minister was today accused of “undermining” hero footballer Marcus Rashford after claiming she was responsible for extending free school meals vouchers.
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford appeared to take credit for the scheme during a car crash interview on Good Morning Britain today.
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But she was accused of being “disingenuous” by presenters Adil Ray and Susanna Reid as she claimed Marcus Rashford didn’t need to intervene over the fiasco.
The Manchester United ace prompted an official review after he shared photos from mums and dads who revealed meagre meal replacements for their hungry children.
Frantic parents shared pictures of potatoes and cans of beans, a loaf of bread and a block of cheese or boxes of cold chips after expecting enough food for a week’s worth of lunches.
Rashford has also twice forced the Government into a U-turn over feeding the nation’s most vulnerable kids when schools were closed by lockdowns.
As a result of his efforts to get free school meals to vulnerable children during the coronavirus crisis, he was even awarded an MBE.
But earlier today, a politician appeared to suggest his work had been unnecessary – despite being one of 320 MPs to vote against the extension of the meals.
It comes as:
This morning, Mrs Ford was tackled on the fiasco by Susanna, who said: “It took a footballer, Marcus Rashford, to force the Government to extend free school meals.”
The politician replied: “We’ve extended free school meals to more groups of children than any Government in the past 50 years.
“That has been a really important part of our support.”
But Susanna hit back: “Why did it take a footballer to make you extend those free school meals? Why did that have to happen?”
Mrs Ford said: “No, it isn’t actually, I had extended the free school meals to more groups of children right at the beginning of this lockdown.”
“Are you saying the work of Marcus Rashford was irrelevant?” Susanna asked.
“I hugely respect Marcus and the campaign he’s been doing,” the minister said.
“He’s been very supportive of the work we’ve been doing to extend that Covid Winter Support Grant, which will continue to support children and families through the Easter holidays.”
The minister then waded further into hot water as she said projects to support the nation’s youngsters were already under way.
Adil said: “I’ve got to ask, because I’m sure people at home are screaming at the telly – are you saying you would have been doing this anyway regardless of what Marcus Rashford did and the call with the Prime Minister?
“Twice he had to intervene – are you saying he was wasting his time? You were doing it already?”
Mrs Ford said: “There were projects we were already working on, and I’m very glad for the work that Marcus has done.”
The row then got even fiercer – as Susanna asked why the minister had voted against the extension of free school meals.
Mrs Ford said the Government had “put in support elsewhere” – before telling the presenters: “Marcus has done some really super work in this period, but I had extended free school meals to more children than any Government in the past 50 years.”
Susanna said: “It took Marcus posting those pics of the boxes to change policy on the vouchers as well. Let’s not undermine what he did.”
Mrs Ford said: “Actually no – we had introduced the voucher scheme and done top0up funding as soon as schools were asked to close.
“It did take some time and there were some shocking pictures of a few lunchboxes.”
Adil told the politician: “It’s disingenuous for you to come on here and try to take credit for it.”
After pictures of “scandalously inadequate” meals hit social media, Boris Johnson chatted to the footballer and announced an investigation.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think anybody is happy with the disgraceful images that we’ve seen the food parcels that have been offered, they are appalling and they are an insult to families.”
“I’m grateful by the way to Marcus Rashford has highlighted the issue and is doing quite an effective job by comparison with (Sir Keir Starmer) in holding the Government to account for these issues.
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“The company in question has rightly apologised and agreed to reimburse.”
Blasting the parcels as “disgraceful”, he fumed: “It’s not good enough.
“You can’t assume households have other ingredients to make the lunches and clearly the packages were totally and woefully inaccurate.”