North East MPs welcomed a government U-turn to provide free school meals during the summer holidays after a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, won a battle to force the Government to provide free school meals during the summer.

In a U-turn, Downing Street announced a £120 million fund which will benefit some 1.3 million children in England over the six-week summer period, Number Ten said.

After the news was announced, Rashford wrote on Twitter: "Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020."

The change of policy followed a plea by the Manchester United and England star to help children.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a remote Westminster briefing: "Owing to the coronavirus pandemic the Prime Minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer.

"To reflect this we will be providing a Covid Summer Food Fund.

"This will provide food vouchers covering the six-week holiday period.

"This is a specific measure to reflect the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

"The scheme will not continue beyond the summer and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals."

Alex Cunningham MP for Stockton North, said: “It is fantastic news that the Government have u-turned and will be making sure that no child will go hungry this summer.

“I am proud to have campaigned on this issue over the past few years, and even prouder that high-profile people such as Marcus Rashford have used their voice and position to put pressure on the Government to right this wrong.

“The combined pressure of MPs in Parliament, those with lived experience such as Marcus, and the thousands of people in this country that wanted to see change has resulted in a change of Government policy that will directly improve children’s lives this summer.

“However, this is just a commitment to this year. The campaign for a permanent holiday hunger scheme carries on”

It is understood payment will be through a one-off six week voucher given to eligible families at the end of term to use in supermarkets.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said the measure would impact some 1.3 million children in England.

Referring to Mr Rashford, he said: "The PM welcomes his contribution to the debate around poverty and respects the fact that he has been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues."

The cost will come to £120 million in additional funding, Downing Street said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: "This is another welcome u-turn from Boris Johnson.

"The thought of 1.3 million children going hungry this summer was unimaginable.

"Well done to @MarcusRashford and many others who spoke out so powerfully about this issue. #HolidaysWithoutHunger".

Downing Street said the vouchers would amount to £15 a week per child.

The PM's spokesman said: "This is a specific measure over the summer."

Mr Rashford had penned an open letter this week asking the Government to reverse its decision not to award free school meals vouchers in England - for which nearly 1.3 million children are eligible - outside of term time.

Matt Vickers MP for Stockton South, said: "I believe the government have made the right call on this. This is something that is very close to my heart. So I am glad the government understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation this summer.To reflect this, we will be providing a Covid Summer Food Fund."