Free school meals: Boris Johnson suggests help is coming for families in need this Christmas

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

It appears the government may be ready to compromise on the issue of free school meals during the holidays after Boris Johnson said he will "make sure" that no child goes hungry in the UK this winter.

After being asked about the government's move to reject extending the scheme, the prime minister said: "We don't want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this Government - and you are not going to see that."

He added: "We will do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry this winter during the holidays, that's obviously something we care about very much".

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener has more:

Mr Johnson admitted that holiday hunger "is an issue" and "something we need to focus on" but said "the way to deal with it, we think, is by increasing the funds available for universal credit, we've put up by about £1000 a year.

But also to put more in through local councils".

There had been reports that the government is working to provide additional support to eligible families after Marcus Rashford's campaign to extend the scheme won over public opinion, a number of backbench Tories, and more than 800,000 petition signatures.

Mr Johnson said he supports local councils for providing help to families in need.

"We support the local councils - indeed we fund the local councils and many of the organisations that are helping in this period - but we are also uplifting Universal Credit by £1,000 and we think that is one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time.

"I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger, it is there, we have to deal with it.

"The debate is how do you deal with it. We are very proud of the support we have given, I have said repeatedly throughout this crisis that the government will support families and businesses, jobs and livelihoods, across the country.

"We're going to continue to do that."

Downing Street hinted that Chancellor Rishi Sunak could announce extra support next month, pointing to comments from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that "the spending review sets out any future funding on behalf of the Government".

A motion to extend free schools meals scheme through the holidays was rejected by the government after Labour triggered a vote in the Commons on the issue - it lost the vote by 322 to 261 to reject the motion.

But England striker Rashford did not give up on his campaign, and hundreds of thousands of meals have been pledged to families in need by private companies and local councils - including Tory councils.

Rashford's team, Manchester United, have said it will deliver 5,000 meals to struggling families during the October half-term.

After the vote Rashford said people needed to put aside politics and realise "a significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter."

He added: "This is not about politics this is about humanity."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed those who stepped in to help as "absolutely wonderful", while saying it was cash from central government that had allowed councils to provide support.

Mr Hancock said he agrees "very strongly" with "the purpose" of Rashford's campaign, telling Sky News: "I think we're all inspired by the way that he's led that campaign.

"And the purpose is that no child should go hungry, and that's right."

The health secretary earlier said the prime minister had been in contact with Rashford over the campaign, saying there had been "communication between the two" but the England striker tweeted to rubbish the claim.

In response to a tweet about the claim, Rashford wrote: "Hmm, unless he’s referring to the call we had following the u-turn in June?..."

The prime minister - who was speaking during a visit to a hospital in Reading - confirmed he had not spoken to Rashford since June.

Along with Tory MPs, a number of Tory run councils have voiced concern over government policy on the issue and several have announced they will provide help to those in need.

Medway and Wandsworth Council, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council and Kensington and Chelsea council are among the Conservative Councils providing support for eligible families.

Former immigration minister Caroline Nokes became the latest MP to join the revolt, telling BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour there had to be a change of tack.

Boris Johnson has so far resisted pressure to provide free school meals to children during the holidays. Credit: PA

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about them having to take another look at it. I think it has to be quick and I think it has to be very very clear,” she said.

Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin warned the government had “misunderstood the mood of the country” and would probably have to think again.

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton – who abstained in last week’s vote on the issue – said he would vote against the Government if it came to the Commons again, while another ex-minister, Tobias Ellwood, expressed regret that he had supported the Government last week.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer has sought to exploit the disarray in the Conservative ranks by confirming Labour would force another Commons vote on the issue if ministers do not relent in time for the Christmas holidays.

He wrote: "Labour will force another vote on free school meals if the Government does not change course before the Christmas break."It's not too late to do the right thing."