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Watch: Keegan in spat with BBC presenter over childcare policy

Gillian Keegan had a bust up with BBC Breakfast presenter Sally Nugent

Easter recess may be in full swing, but government ministers aren’t getting a break. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan was sent out on the morning round today, to talk about the Tories’ free childcare expansion package. Eligible working parents of two-year-olds can now receive 15 hours of government-funded childcare a week during term time. From September, this will extend to working parents of all children older than nine months, before all eligible families will be able to receive the full rollout of 30 hours a week a year later.

But the government and its opposition are feuding over the plans. Labour has taken issue with the scheme, querying how the proposals will be enacted given current staffing issues in nurseries. For their part the Tories insist that they will offer incentives, including a £1,000 sign-on bonus currently being trialled, to entice more people into nursery work. When pressed on the plans this morning, Keegan was keen to paint Labour as the villain, insisting that Sir Keir Starmer’s party would drop the policy altogether. But BBC Breakfast presenter Sally Nugent had spoken to Labour an hour earlier and wasn’t prepared to humour Keegan’s spin. It all made for a rather testy exchange…

GK: The thing that could most impact this system rollout is if Labour got into power because they will not continue free childcare, which is something we believe is really important. 

SN: Okay, first of all, that’s not true. I would also just point out that we have had Labour on the programme this morning, they were interviewed and spoke about this. So we’re not talking about Labour, we’re talking about government policy right now.

GK: Well, actually, they did say they would stop this policy. They said they wouldn’t continue to roll it out.

SN: They said this morning they were going into consultation.

GK: Well going into consultation is not committing to deliver…

SN: It’s not saying they’re not doing it though either, is it?

Awkward. Keegan made her claim just hours after shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said that the Labour party would keep the expanded childcare hours in place. It’s not a good look when the Education Secretary can’t even get her facts right…

It comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was quizzed on local radio this morning on the same policy. When asked by BBC Radio Tees whether he had consulted any nurseries in the North East region, Sunak wasn’t able to give specifics. The PM told a less than impressed presenter that it was the Department for Education that ‘were that ones that have extensively consulted with the sector’, adding that ‘all of that will probably be online’. When he was interviewed only minutes later on BBC Radio Newcastle, the Prime Minister received more negative feedback. He was told it ‘might sound as though this policy hasn’t really been properly thought through’ and that there were ‘nurseries in the North East that were worried about it’. It’s not quite the policy launch the government will have been hoping for…

Watch the clip here: 

Steerpike
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Steerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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