Minister admits he was wrong on free school meals - before defending abstaining on key votes again

Nadhim Zahawi is challenged by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain

Nadhim Zahawi is challenged by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain - Credit: ITV

A minister has accepted he may have made the wrong decision on voting against extending free school meals in the House of Commons - before defending a decision not to support offering help for families again in the House of Commons.

Nadhim Zahawi, appearing on Good Morning Britain, was questioned over Matt Hancock's interview in which he refused to accept he had made the wrong choice by voting against the scheme

Asked if he regrets his initial decision, he said: "My answer is with the benefit of hindsight, of course, you want to make the right thing every decision each and every time. You don't get everything right in every vote".

Defending Hancock's answer, he added: "Since March he's been working seven hours a week, 19 hour days, managing a pandemic that every country is struggling with".

But Morgan said that "none of that justifies not being able to do what you've just done in ten seconds. 

"My point is when ministers admit making mistakes and change it to the right thing to do which is what happened with free school meals, that is something you should just own. And just say to the public 'we get it, we listened to Marcus Rashford, good on him, we got it wrong, we've now got it right, and we're sorry for getting it wrong'. It's really not difficult."

But Zahawi said "sometimes you get votes in parliament, like today, which are a stunt".

Referencing Labour's opposition day votes on extending free school meals and a cut in Universal Credit, co-presenter Susanna Reid pointed out that the government would likely to find itself on the wrong side of the debate again.

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She told the minister: "You're going to find yourself in the same position, aren't you... You have the situation where Labour forces a vote, calling on the government to retain the £20-a-week increase in Universal Credit and you're going to vote against it because you say it's a political stunt. All it's going to look like, if you oppose it, is that you do not want poorer families to maintain that £20 uplift a week in the benefits they rely on."

"The reason I say I'll abstain - I won't vote against it - is because it's a stunt," explained the minister, before insisting the government had put £280 billion into the economy to help needy families.

Reid continued: "The £20 a week increase that families have come on to rely on, you can't in good conscience say that you will take that away when this pandemic is nearing being over.

"How can you give families £20 a week extra, they come to rely on it, and then you withdraw it?"

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