MATT Hancock has justified his department spending £50,000 of taxpayer’s money on takeaway food during the pandemic – despite his government initially refusing twice to feed hungry school children during the holidays.

The Health Secretary also came under pressure after refusing to rule out a bumper new pay deal for MPs.

Freedom of Information requests revealed that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spent vast sums on meals in the early weeks of the crisis. A total of nine orders were placed to Bong Bong's Manila Kanteen in April at an average of £4817 per spend, totalling £43,348.96. In March, £4179.72 of taxpayer’s cash was paid to the restaurant.

The figures were obtained by the Daily Mail and the TaxPayers' Alliance, with the DHSC confirming the food was ordered in to its headquarters in Victoria, central London.

Asked about the report on Sky News, Hancock insisted he can “absolutely justify” the outlay on feeding his staff.

However, he was pressed by Kay Burley, who reminded the Health Secretary that his government has twice been forced into humiliating U-turns by footballer Marcus Rashford after initially refusing to extend free school meals over the summer and Christmas holidays.

The Tory minister said: “I can absolutely justify feeding people who are working 18 hours to keep you and everyone else in this country safe.”

He added: “When people are working 18 hours a day often seven days a week in the middle of the pandemic, of course I’m going to feed them.

“It’s possibly the best value food you can get in terms of allowing people working so hard to tackle this virus.”

Burley interjected: “And yet free school meals for kids over the holidays was too much of a stretch for this government.”

READ MORE: Marcus Rashford welcomes humiliating Tory Government U-turn on school meals

Hancock said the Government will now be providing support over the Christmas holidays.

Watch the full exchange here.

Earlier, Hancock was asked if a proposed £3300 pay rise for MPs was “appropriate”, given that the Chancellor is expected to announce a salary freeze for public sector workers.

READ MORE: George Kerevan: What is Rishi Sunak up to ahead of  Commons Spending Review?

He said to Burley that “you can imagine what my views are” but refused to give a definitive answer.

Commenting on the FOI requests about takeaway meals, a DHSC spokesman said: “The department led the Government's response to the pandemic and during lockdown we had key workers in the office from early in the morning until late at night.

“These purchases were necessary to ensure staff working shifts were able to access hot food when other catering options were unavailable during lockdown, until alternative arrangements could be made.”

He added: “All departmental spend is in line with approved Government processes.”