The British Labour party has said that more than a million families will benefit from its pledge to overhaul "patchy" childcare provision as it sought focus on its manifesto plans to roll out free care to all two to four-year-olds.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has put the creation of a "national education service" at the heart of his party’s election campaign, which would extend 30 hours of free childcare each week to all children before they start school, regardless of family circumstances.
The policy would benefit more than 1.3 million children as complex rules mean only 40% of two-year-olds qualify while many working parents with three and four-year-old children are missing out, according to Labour.
However, Mr Corbyn’s inability to provide the cost of his party’s key manifesto plan this morning will undoubteldy be seized upon by his detractors.
Quizzed on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Mr Corbyn paused several times when repeatedly asked to give a cost for the pledge, before asking: "Can we come back to that in a moment?"
Presenter Emma Barnett asked: "Let me understand then, how much will it cost to provide un- means tested childcare for 1.3 million children?"
Mr Corbyn replied: "It will cost ... it will obviously cost a lot to do so, we accept that."
Ms Barnett said: "I presume you have the figures?"
He replied: "Yes, I do. It does cost a lot to do it, the point I’m trying to make is that we’re making it universal so that we are in a position to make sure that every child gets it and those that can, at the moment get free places will continue to get them, those that have to pay won’t and we’ll collect the money through taxation, mainly through corporate taxation."
Ms Barnett asked again, at which point Mr Corbyn said: "I’ll give you the figure in a moment."
The lapse has been seized upon already in certain media quarters with the Daily Telegraph describing it is as a "car crash interview".
Mr Corbyn wil take some solace, however, in support from veteran and respected broadcaster David Dimbleby who said in a Guardian interview that Mr Corbyn was being treated unfairly in the Press.
Speaking before a Question Time special on Thursday when he will interview the Labour leader and Theresa May, Dimbleby pointed out the rightwing bias of most British newspapers and complained of their “lazy pessimism”.