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Marcus Rashford slams Therese Coffey over tweet on water supply amid free school meals campaign

Marcus Rashford has hit back at comment from the DWP secretary (PA)

3 min read

Marcus Rashford has slammed Therese Coffey over her comments about families’ access to hot water in response to his free school meals campaign.

The Work and Pensions Secretary has sparked a major row after she was accused of making "flippant" remarks claiming families could not have their water shut off during the pandemic.

It came after Mr Rashford posted a series of tweets urging ministers to reverse their decision not to provide free school meals over the summer holidays, warning the move would impact the "most vulnerable".

Over a million children are currently eligible for the scheme, but ministers announced earlier this month it would not be extended, instead providing local authorities with a £63m to help provide food and support for those in need.

Writing in The Times, Mr Rashford said MPs had the chance to "do the right thing" by voting down the plans during a Commons vote later today.

"I don’t claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education," he wrote.

"I am clued up on the difference a U-turn decision would make on the 1.3 million vulnerable children across the UK who are registered for free school meals because ten years ago I was one of them."

He added: "When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown.

"When you turn on the kettle to make a cup of tea or coffee, think of those parents who have had to default on electricity bill payments just to make ends meet, having lost their jobs during the pandemic."

But Ms Coffey responded to his remarks, saying: "Water cannot be disconnected though".

Her comments triggered a major backlash, including from Mr Rashford, who replied: "I'm concerned this is the only tweet of mine you acknowledged. Please, put rivalries aside for a second, and make a difference."

Meanwhile, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds urged the Cabinet minister to apologise for the remarks.

"Imagine having priorities so warped that this snarky comment is your response to Marcus Rashford's powerful campaign," he said.

"Therese Coffey do the right thing: apologise and vote for free school meals for children in poverty this summer."

Mr Rashford's campaign, which has already won the support of some backbench Conservative MPs, was given a further boost after former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she was "baffled" by the Government's position.

"I totally get that some [local authority] funding has been put in place, but am baffled why Westminster colleages picking this hill to die on," she said.

"I didn't have or need free school meals, but I went to a school where a huge % did.

"Food security during the holidays so important. It's basic. Feed the kids."

Following the furious response, Ms Coffey sent a further tweet to the footballer, claiming they were "working to the same aim".

"Hi Marcus Rashford, I welcome your passion for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society - a passion we share," she said.

"We are working to the same aim. I & this Government will continue to actively help and support families and businesses through this emergency and beyond."

She added: "We supported people renting and ensure they cannot be evicted & intervened with electricity suppliers on bills.

"We have kept schools open for vulnerable children and those of key workers. We will continue to support the economy and help all of us get through this."

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