Question Time: Ex-Tory minister accused of making 'sickening' comment about free schools meals row

Nicky Morgan on Question Time

Nicky Morgan on Question Time - Credit: Twitter

Former Tory minister Nicky Morgan has been criticised after suggesting the government refused to extend free school meals because one of its MPs had been called a "scum".

Appearing on Question Time, the previous -culture secretary suggested the government voted down a motion to extend the scheme because of Labour's handling of the debate.

This lead to accusations that the government had voted against feeding hungry children over October and Christmas holidays for political reasons.

Morgan, who stepped down as an MP in 2019 but kept her government post after being elevated to the House of Lords by Boris Johnson, said Labour should have avoided bringing the issue to a vote when it took over the Commons agenda on Opposition Day.

"I think the Labour Party would have got more supporters [on Wednesday] if the deputy Labour leader hadn't called one of the Conservative MPs 'scum' in the course of the debate," Morgan said.

"But that's not exactly the point, is it?" host Fiona Bruce shot back, "I'm not sure anyone's defending that".

Morgan said that if Labour "really wanted to support" a motion to extend free meals then they should not have made it a debate during Opposition Day.

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"Sorry, what is a political reason then that the government didn't support it or because the government doesn't believe in it?," butted in Bruce.

The former minister replied: "The government has put money in dramatically to expand free school meals, anyway..."

Bruce cut in again: "No, no, I get that. I'm just trying to understand why the government didn't support it yesterday.

"Is it because they didn't like the way Labour put the motion or because the government doesn't believe in it on principle?" she asked.

Morgan deflected the question, saying the government had spent £300 million to support children with free meals while schools were shut in the spring and summer.

Morgan insisted there were "other ways" to tackle the issue, including the creation of an "overall strategy" and stressed it was important to work with local authorities.

"I'm sure we could do more to put money, via local authorities, to support families in need," she said.

"But yesterday's handling of the debate - watching that toxic debate in parliament, and watching the way that it was handled, Bridget knows, if you want an issue really tackled don't put it down as an opposition day motion if you want to build a coalition in parliament."

Labour's Bridget Phillipson hit back: "So, kids go hungry this Christmas because you don't like the parliamentary process?"

The comments created fury online.

Niek Buurma tweeted: "So children are hungry because MPs act and reason like spoiled brats?"

Labour MP Paula Barker said: "Nicky Morgan does an absolutely awful job of defending the indefensible. Tories didn’t oppose feeding the poorest kids because of name calling or parliamentary process they did it because they don’t care. It’s sickening and shameful #sameoldtories"

One viewer wrote: "Build coalitions, blah blah, blah...are we supposed to pretend that Marcus Rashford didn't have to shame the government to act the first time around?"

Another added: "See, the problem with the Tories is they don't see that there is a problem. They certainly don't see it's their problem to fix."

Andy Saunders posted: "So there you have it - the government and its MPs voted against giving help to our poorest children because they didn't like the parliamentary process that Labour adopted to table its motion . And they are still baffled why people call them scum." 

Others were a bit more balanced.

One user said: "Let’s face it, both main parties are making this about politics and not about the common interest of the people.

"We are in unprecedented times but MPs are looking to further their own career rather than looking after the people in the UK. Time to grow up."

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