Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says the Government will always listen to Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford’s concerns about child poverty.
But Raab insists the situation is now different to the summer – when Rashford forced a Government U-turn and ensured the provision of free meals during the school summer holidays.
Rashford has been awarded an MBE for his campaigning efforts and has now launched an online petition urging the Government to make three commitments to support vulnerable children as part of the #endchildfoodpoverty campaign.
The Government has rejected Rashford’s calls to extend the free school meals scheme to include half-term and Christmas holidays but the petition has now received over 100,000 signatures, meaning it should be discussed in Parliament.
Asked if that would be the case, Raab told Sky News: “Parliament will decide what it discusses.
“I pay tribute to Marcus Rashford, he seems to me like a really smart young man. He’s talking from the heart and we really understand that.
“I mentioned earlier what we’ve done to make sure the very most vulnerable in our society are protected.
“I think we are in a different situation than we were previously, when he made what was a very valuable intervention, because schools are open.
“We’ve put more money in, emergency money for local authorities precisely to deal with these sorts of scenarios.
“So we’ll always listen to what Marcus has got to say, but I think we’ve put the right package in place already, and of course Parliament can debate these issues and it’s quite right that they should.
“The Government doesn’t control Parliament, the MPs do, and they will debate any issue that they wish to, and I’m sure there will be people that want to raise the issues that Marcus has raised.
“And we understand, we’ve got a lot of time for listening to his account and his insights into this.
“All I’d say is that precisely because we listened to him first time round, we’ve put a really targeted package of measures in place and support in place for precisely the children and families that he’s speaking up for.”