Ministers dodge questions about future of universal infant free school meals

Ministers have dodged questions about the future of universal infant free school meals in Parliament following revelations the scheme could be scrapped at the spending review.

Schools Week revealed last week that the programme, which provides meals for around 1.4 million infants, has been “long-listed” by the Department for Education as part of the spending review process. Cabinet ministers have been asked to find departmental savings of 5 per cent.

During today’s education questions in the House of Commons, Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary said it was “shocking to see reports that the chancellor is considering scrapping free school meals”, and called on education secretary Gavin Williamson to save the scheme.

“I know the secretary of state stated that he had made representations to the chancellor, but will he state categorically today that he’d resign rather than implement such budget cuts? And while he’s at it, shouldn’t he also adopt our proposals for free school breakfasts – an idea he once supported?”

But children’s minister Vicky Ford, who responded on Williamson’s behalf, focused in her response on the government’s breakfast clubs programme, and said nothing about the plan for universal infant free school meals.

Rayner said Ford’s response was “deeply alarming”.

“With children turning up to school too hungry to learn and millions in food poverty, the government must urgently assure parents and teachers that universal infant free school meals are safe.”

Since it was introduced in 2014 by the coalition government, the universal infant free school meals policy has been threatened on several occasions. Most recently, the Conservatives pledged in their 2017 election manifesto to ditch it, but then U-turned following a huge backlash and the loss of their majority.

Johnson’s victory in December’s election, coupled with the elevation of his key adviser Dominic Cummings, who opposed the policy when he worked for Michael Gove at the DfE, have both led to concerns it will finally get the axe.

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  1. Jennifer Brady

    I find yet again the poorest of this country lose out again with free school meals I voted for this government basically because I thought they really had more about them than the labour government but since been in nothing an I mean nothing has been done for the poorer classes or our pensioners I believed Boris Johnson to be a saviour for our country I’ve yet to see anything that changes my mind may be next time us poorer people will think twice about who we vote in mr Johnson as been given an almighty chance to show us he cares about our country an its poorer people but yet again he’s not come up to scratch we have got our wish with getting out of the EU an for god sake dont muck that up mr Johnson but as for what else as been promised we have yet to see but not to worry calmer is a great thing an it comes to those who wait not to those who take


      It is obvios that you voted for the Tories on total ignorance and relief upon the tory media propaganda machine. Even the most basic research would have clearly shown that the tories only intrest is to make money for themselves and their financial backers. The reality is you voted to continue to have the severly sometimes terminally ill and people with disabilities treated worse than criminals. You also voted for yet another increase in child poverty working parents forced to rely upon foodbanks to feed themselves and their children there are parents who wait until their children have finished their foodbank meal in the hope that they leave some of their meal for them to eat. We have our children the future generation of our country not knowing who will be teaching them from day to day nor what they are supposed to be being taught. We have people who have worked since leaving school never having claimed any benefits left unable to work earn a living due to being on heavy duty medications including morphine and other medications for side to mitigate the side effects. While the have to wait over nine months to see a consultant just to find out how serious or not their injuries or illness is then they are forced to wait over 2 to 3 years for surgery forced onto benefits all their direct debits and other credit contracts defaulted. Rent and council tax arrears due to DWP waiting times and errors it was the tories that ended free milk for school children so they will have no problems with cutting these meals. As Bernie Sanders has pointed out the tories and Republicans. Are not against Socialism. When its them that benefit from it through tax breaks and expenses. For everything.

  2. Jane wright

    Any one who voted Tory back in and is now complaining about how untrustworthy worthy they are and uncaring (who knew!) I dont want to hear it!!! Could have changed many lives for the better at the most crucial time in history so dont moan now, all we can do is help each other and pull together and show self interested Tory Gov what compassion and support of others is really about

  3. Jane wright

    Hello ten years of austerity punishing the poor the disabled and the vulnerable of society whilst the rich who caused the financial crash get rewarded and richer! The clues were there already as to how this unethical Tory gov works why would you expect any different?