Rishi Sunak has dismissed calls from Marcus Rashford and major supermarkets to extend free school meals for millions of children in this week’s budget.
The Chancellor today came under pressure from fellow Tories to give more help to struggling families - with former welfare chief Iain Duncan Smith urging him to soften the blow dealt by Universal Credit cuts.
The Manchester United striker said levelling up should “surely” start with ensuring that “every child in Britain can eat well at least once a day”.
And today supermarket giants Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer backed Mr Rashford’s campaign.
The 23-year-old footballer said a failure to maintain funding for children would “both deepen and extend the scarring caused by the pandemic on our youngest citizens and ultimately our economy”.
But the Chancellor dismissed their demands, saying the government had “transitioned into a more normal way of doing things” after Covid-19.
Image:BBC/AFP via Getty Images)
He told the BBC: “We put in place some measures to help families during coronavirus, that was the right thing to do, and in common with the other things that have now come to an end, whether it was furlough or other things, that's right that we've transitioned to a more normal way of doing things.
"But we have replaced... but we have actually already acted, is what I'd say to Marcus and everyone else.
“We've put in place something called the holiday activities program, which provides not just meals but also activities for children during holiday periods for those families that need extra help.”
It comes as the Children’s Commissioner for England said children need to be put at the centre of recovery from the pandemic in the Budget.
She told Times Radio: “The important thing is that we put children at the centre of recovery from the pandemic.
“It's investment; we need to be funding the right things, the things that will work and we need to look at children in the round and I think now's the time so come on, let's do it.”
Earlier, senior Tories urged the Chancellor to help poorer families in the Budget, to ensure the UK actually “levels up”.
Mr Sunak was warned Mr Sunak to beware of “Treasury orthodoxy” and avoid taking a hard line on spending cuts.
And former benefits chief Sir Ian Duncan Smith called on the Chancellor to soften the impact of Universal Credit cuts.
He told the Observer: “We are not in the same situation as in 2010. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as in a Treasury orthodoxy, which is that we somehow have to claw back [spending] straight away.
“This is more like a war debt. Universal credit is about people’s lives. If you help support them, they pay you back.”
Robert Halfon, the Tory chair of the Commons education committee, backed Labour ’s calls for VAT on heating bills to be scrapped this winter as it will meet a Brexit campaign promise to cut tax on energy bills.
“This is a simple way of trying to alleviate the pain of ever-increasing energy bills ,” he said.Read More Read More