'Your expansion of free childcare in April seems in disarray. Can you guarantee every parent who wants a place will get one?' - @TrevorPTweets.
@GillianKeegan says she can't 'guarantee' this, but is "confident" the pledge will be met.#TrevorPhillipshttps://t.co/fhIHlpTGAFpic.twitter.com/IFLnB59yQ0
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 4, 2024
The minister told Trevor Phillips to “let me finish” during the tense exchange this morning.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Budget last year that working parents of all children above nine months old would be able to access 30 hours of free childcare from September.
But Rishi Sunak admitted last week that there were “practical issues” which had placed a question mark over the viability of the policy.
On ‘Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips’ this morning, Keegan added to the confusion by failing to confirm that the new system will be in place by the autumn.
The presenter said: “The providers say you’re going to need something like 100,000 extra staff over the next two years to meet that pledge.
“Can you guarantee that this September, every parent to whom you’ve made that promise ... will find a place?”
Keegan replied: “What we’re doing is working to make sure that we deliver a plan to provide that.”
Phillips then told her: “For parents who are watching, they will have heard me ask you the question ‘will you guarantee that there are places for everybody in September, and the word I didn’t hear in that answer was ‘yes’.”
The minister said: “What you can’t do, Trevor, which I think you probably know, is guarantee something in the future that you’re not in control of all the bits.”
Phillips then hit back: “But here’s the problem. You can’t say you have made the promise that you will provide this and then now say I can’t guarantee it. Why did you make the promise in the first place?”
A clearly-irritated Keegan said: “I’m very, very confident. I think you’re trying to pick on semantics.”
As the presenter tried to respond, the minister told him: “Will you let me finish, Trevor?
“When you deliver a project, what you do is put plans in place to make sure you can. Obviously, guaranteeing something in the future is something that you can never do, all you can do is put all the plans in place and then react if you need to.”
She added: “What you’re asking me is to personally guarantee something on behalf of tens of thousands of businesses that are working out there to grow the capacity and make sure we’ve got the people in place.”
Phillips said: “Forgive me for interrupting you, I don’t mean to be rude.”
Keegan then replied: “Well you are interrupting me quite a lot, I don’t know why.”