Jacob Rees-Mogg today launched a furious attack on Unicef as he accused the UN humanitarian agency of trying to score ‘cheap political points’ after it backed a programme to help feed hungry children in the UK.
It is the first time in the charity’s 70-year history that it has decided to step in and provide domestic support in the UK.
But the decision to intervene sparked anger from Mr Rees-Mogg who accused Unicef of ‘playing politics’ as he claimed it should be ‘ashamed of itself’.
The Commons Leader said the agency is ‘meant to be looking after people in the poorest, the most deprived, countries in the world where people are starving, where there are famines and where there are civil wars’.
The issue was raised in the House of Commons today by Labour MP Zarah Sultana as she slammed the Government and told Mr Rees-Mogg that ‘for the first time ever’ Unicef has judged it necessary to step in to ‘feed working-class kids in the UK’.
But Mr Rees-Mogg hit back and said: ‘I think it is a real scandal that Unicef should be playing politics in this way when it is meant to be looking after people in the poorest, the most deprived, countries in the world where people are starving, where there are famines and where there are civil wars, and they make cheap political points of this kind, giving, I think, £25,000 to one council. It is a political stunt of the lowest order.
‘What has this Government done about child poverty? We are committed to our manifesto pledge to reduce child poverty.
‘We have expanded free school meals to all five to seven year olds, benefiting 1.4million children.
‘We doubled free childcare for eligible working parents and will establish a £1billion childcare fund, giving parents the support and freedom to look after children.
‘We are spending £400million of taxpayers’ money to support children, families and the most vulnerable over Winter and through 2021.
‘Since 2010 to 2018/19 there are 100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty in this country. This a record of successive conservatism and Unicef should be ashamed of itself.’
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said that ‘the only people who should be ashamed of themselves are Boris Johnson and the rest of his government for letting our children go hungry’.
She added: ‘In one of the richest countries in the world, our children should not be forced to rely on a charity that usually works in war zones and in response to humanitarian disasters.’
Unicef provided the £25,000 funding to the School Food Matters charity which is leading the Food Power for Generation Covid initiative in partnership with Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, and the Southwark Food Power Alliance.
Unicef provided £25,000 to the School Food Matters charity. The money will be spent on providing struggling families in south London with breakfast boxes
Unicef said the coronavirus pandemic is the most urgent crisis affecting children since the Second World War.
Some 1,800 families in Southwark, south London, will receive 18,000 breakfasts which will be distributed by schools for two weeks when they break up.
The programme will also provide 6,750 breakfasts to families over the February half-term break.
Anna Kettley, director of programmes at Unicef UK, said: ‘This is Unicef’s first ever emergency response within the UK, introduced to tackle the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus crisis and reach the families most in need.
‘The grant for School Food Matters will address the gap in current provision for children, providing approximately 1,800 children with breakfast bags during the Christmas holidays and February half term.’