Conservative MPs have criticised a campaign for free school meals to be extended over the holidays.


Last week England footballer Marcus Rashford launched a petition urging government to make the change. But in a Commons debate Brendan Clarke-Smith said we need less "celebrity virtue signalling on Twitter". And Kieran Mullan said celebrities with hundreds of thousands of followers should encourage people to volunteer not just sign petitions.


Manchester United striker Rashford has argued that the number of children with little access to food had grown due to families losing income amid Covid-19 restriction measures.


In a tweet, he said he was keeping his eye on the Commons which voted on a Labour plan to offer food support to poorer families over the school holidays until Easter 2021. He said he would be looking out for those prepared to "turn a blind eye" to vulnerable children's needs.

MPs voted against Labour's motion 322 votes to 261.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not change his policy on free school meals, arguing that poor families were supported by the benefits system. He told MPs: "We support kids of low incomes in school and we will continue to do so.


But he added that the government would "continue to use the benefit system and all the systems of income support to support young people and children throughout the holidays as well." The prime minister's official spokesman later clarified that the government would not be changing its policy on support for poor families.


A campaign by Rashford pushed the government into a dramatic U-turn when it agreed to extend free school meals over the summer holidays.