Jacob Rees-Mogg has criticised Unicef for providing funding to help feed British school children, saying the UN agency “should be ashamed of itself”.
The Leader of the House of Commons told MPs that Unicef’s pledge to provide £25,000 to help a south London charity provide children with breakfast boxes over Christmas, is a “scandal”.
Unicef said it is responding to a “domestic emergency” brought on by the pandemic with £700,000 funding for community groups to help feed children, but Rees-Mogg called the act a “political stunt of the lowest order.”
‘It is a real scandal that Unicef should be playing politics’ – Rees-Mogg
In the Commons, Labour MP Zarah Sultana said: “For the first time ever, Unicef, the UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children, is having to feed working-class kids in the UK.”
She continued: “But while children go hungry, a wealthy few enjoy obscene riches.”
Sultana asked Rees-Mogg if he would “give government time to discuss the need to make him and his super-rich chums pay their fair share so that we can end the grotesque inequality that scars our society”.
Rees-Mogg responded: “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 of 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, l think, £25,000 to one council.”
He claimed the number of children in absolute poverty has fallen by 100,000 over the last decade, calling it “a record of success”.
‘Plugging a gap, so no child is left to go hungry’ say Unicef
Unicef provides humanitarian aid to children around the world and for the first time in its 70-year history, it will provide grants for British charities. It is estimated that a fifth of British households with children are going hungry.
“We are one of the richest countries in the world and we should not have to be relying on food banks or food aid,” said Unicefs’s Anna Kettley.
The intervention is about “plugging a gap” with the funding part of its Food Power for Generation Covid initiative and Kettley added: “Ultimately a longer-term solution is needed to tackle the root causes of food poverty, so no child is left to go hungry.”
Approximately 1,800 children will receive “breakfast bags” during the Christmas holidays and February’s half-term, said Kettley, adding: “This funding will help build stronger communities as the impact of the pandemics worsen, but ultimately a longer-term solution is needed to tackle the root causes of food poverty, so no child is left to go hungry.”
As well as the School Food Matters charity in south London, another partnership in Devon will receive £24,000 of Unicef funding to help feed 120 families this winter.
Chris Forster from Transforming Plymouth Together, the charity which will receive the money, said: “In some ways it makes me feel angry but also very pleased that we are able to support. We had one family as part of the deliveries last week literally in tears with gratitude because their cupboard was bare.”
‘Government should be ashamed’ – Rayner
The Food Foundation charity found that 2.4 million British children were living in food insecure households in May 2020 and that by October a further 900,000 children had been registered for free school meals.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, responded to Rees-Mogg’s comments, tweeting: “Government Ministers letting children go hungry over Christmas should be ashamed of themselves. Charities stepping in to feed our children should be proud and applauded. I can’t believe we have to spell this out.”
Earlier, Rayner tweeted: “Old Etonian hedge fund founder Jacob Rees Mogg, who has personal wealth over £100 million, says it is a “scandal” that Unicef are having to feed hungry children in Britain.
“The only scandal is this rotten out of touch government leaving over 4 million children living in poverty.”