Marcus Rashford today denied Matt Hancock's claims that he contacted the Prime Minister about the series of free school meals – amid growing signs, a Tory insurgency will force the government to turn around.
The Health Secretary said Boris Johnson and the English star had "communicated" and insisted it was time for "everyone to come together" to feed poorer children.
When he pressed for more money to be spent on support during school holidays, Mr. Hancock specifically did not rule it out.
He stressed the government's obligation to ensure that "no child is allowed to go hungry" and said it has already handed over £ 63 million to councils.
However, Rashford didn't appear to be aware of Mr Johnson's contact, suggesting they hadn't spoken on Twitter since an earlier rise in June.
The government is trying to find a way out of the recent bitter dispute. Tory MPs are angry at the "shockingly incompetent" dealings and threaten to help Labor change policy.
A petition from Premier League footballer Rashford calling for free school meals to be funded during the holidays has garnered around 900,000 signatures.
Protesters left empty plates in front of local Conservative offices while Rishi Sunak and other senior politicians were banned from some companies in their constituencies.
Former ministers lead a conservative revolt over free school meals when they warned the prime minister that he must come up with "something better".
Up to 100 Tory MPs have spread disgruntled messages about the government's handling of the campaign, describing them as & # 39; shocking incapable of political disaster and hopeless communication, the Times reported.
According to Downing Street sources, work is underway to increase support for eligible students after school hours.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Boris Johnson (right) and English star Marcus Rashford (left) "communicated" through free school meals
However, Rashford did not appear to be aware of Mr Johnson's contact, suggesting they hadn't spoken on Twitter since a previous U-turn in June
Mr Johnson came under pressure yesterday when union leader Keir Starmer announced that he would soon force another Commons vote on the matter
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr. Hancock said he understood that Mr. Johnson and Rashford were in contact.
"As far as I know, there was communication between the two," he told BBC Breakfast.
“We've all seen what Marcus Rashford did, and the way he behaved in this campaign is absolutely exemplary.
"He argues based on his personal experience for people who really need this support."
When asked if there is an urgent need for additional government action on free school meals, Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today program, “Well, I accept and firmly believe that we should all come together to make sure no child starves.
"That is the central lesson behind what Marcus Rashford is arguing for, and I think he only makes the case with such strong eloquence and authentic speaking from personal experience, and I think that is something we should all leave behind. "
He added: "I think that in working with the central government that funds what we have done, the councils often know how to get to the children who need the most support and the people on the ground as individuals. "
But Rashford seemed confused by the claim and replied on Twitter, "Hmm, unless it relates to the call we had after the U-turn in June?"
Mr Johnson came under pressure yesterday when union leader Keir Starmer announced that he would force another Commons vote on the matter before Christmas.
And senior Conservatives made it clear they could stand behind the motion this time, with some saying they "regretted" helping the government in a decision last week.
Meanwhile, England Children's Representative Anne Longfield has harshly condemned spitting, saying it was like "something out of Oliver Twist".
The Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health's open letter to Boris Johnson in full
As pediatricians, we are shocked by the UK Government's refusal to extend the provision of free school meals in England to low-income children during the school holidays.
Child hunger is an issue that should go beyond politics.
Few would disagree that one of our most basic human responsibilities is making sure children have enough to eat.
Every day we see the effects of hunger and malnutrition in our work as pediatricians.
It is not uncommon for us to look after children who do not have enough to eat or who do not have access to a large meal outside of the school facilities.
Good nutrition is at the heart of health, wellbeing and development for children and adolescents.
Without it, the children's health outcomes deteriorate, and with it their chances in life
In the UK, more than 4 million children live in poverty and around a third of them depend on free school meals.
The pandemic has anchored and exacerbated this reality; Families who were previously managed are now struggling to make ends meet due to the effects of COVID-19.
It is not good enough to send them off into the holiday season hoping for the best while knowing that many will simply starve.
Grocery vouchers don't solve this problem, but they do offer a short-term solution.
We call on the UK Government to keep the pledges made by the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Northern Irish Executive to continue offering free meals to low-income children for the coming weeks and then extend them to at least Easter school holidays, as they do in Wales and Scotland have done.
We pay tribute to Marcus Rashford and his strong campaign. His advocacy for children and young people was a source of inspiration in difficult times.
We are proud to be at his side on this issue.
As Tory fears grew, Liaison Committee chairman Sir Bernard Jenkin warned that the government had "misunderstood" the sentiment in the country regarding free school meals.
He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "I think we have to admit that we misunderstood the mood of the country here.
& # 39; The public wants the government to take national leadership on this. I think the government will probably have to reconsider it, especially if there will be more votes in the lower house.
"If the Chair of the Education Select Committee (Robert Halfon) is not backing the government on this matter – and he's a Conservative – I think the Conservative Party government needs to listen."
When asked how he would vote in other Commons departments, Sir Bernard said, "I'll see what the government says and how they react to the situation."
Defense Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood was asked on Times Radio if he regretted voting with the government last week.
"I suppose so, if I'm honest," he said.
“I regret the way the debate has come about because one thing that is happening here is that we will lose national resolve if you wish.
I'm afraid the politicians and politics of this whole Covid-19 are not going in the right direction.
"The more parties work together and support collective governance, the easier it is to deal with a permanent emergency."
Meanwhile, Ms. Longfield said she was "appalled and genuinely disappointed" in recent debates over the extension of free school meal vouchers for vulnerable children.
"We are a wealthy country, it's 2020," she told Sky News.
“Having a debate about whether we should ensure that hungry and vulnerable children have enough to eat is strikingly similar to something we would expect in the chapters of Oliver Twist – a novel published in the 19th century.
"Let's end the divisive and distracting conversation and focus."
But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis defended the government's stance.
He said ministers increased the universal credit and allocated £ 63 million to local authorities to help people in their communities during a time of need.
“I know this is a very emotional topic. It's a sensitive subject. It is something that affects families in my constituency as well as across the country. I think the position we have taken is the right one, ”he told Sky News.
"We want to make sure that we deal with child poverty at the core and create the structure that enables children to have access to the food they need during the school holidays."
In the letter, organized by the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), doctors say they are "shocked" at the government's refusal to extend the program to low-income children in England during the upcoming school holidays.
The college has urged the government to honor pledges made by authorities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, who have agreed to extend the programs to the Christmas, February and Easter holidays.
Commenting on the letter, Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH, said: “I have rarely seen such anger among our members.
“We take care of children who do not have enough to eat. We see way too many of them.
“It is heartbreaking that it has become a normal part of our work and that starvation is all too common for millions of families in the UK.
& # 39; There is an opportunity to correct this. There is no point in talking about leveling the land, a goal we support while refusing to offer temporary help to children and families. & # 39;
The college says there are four million children in the UK living in poverty and the pandemic "solidifies that reality."
Bosses say children "urgently need government support" and that while food vouchers do not solve the problem of child poverty, they provide a short-term resource for children who do not have enough to eat.
Dr. Max Davie, RCPCH Health Improvement Officer, said, “We are a rich country. It's not about money, it's about making sure people have something to eat, and it's about doing the right thing for kids who need a hand up.
"We shouldn't have to fight for meal vouchers when we're in the middle of a pandemic."
A petition from Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford (pictured with his mother, Melanie, who helps a Greater Manchester grocery bank) has more than 800,000 signatures
The high-ranking Tory MPs Bernard Jenkin (left) and Tobias Ellwood (right) criticize the government's policies, among other things
Manchester United player Marcus Rashford has called for school meals to be funded during the school holidays until Easter 2021
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