Tories U-turn on manifesto plan to scrap free school meals
Ministers have announced they are ditching the Conservatives' election policy of scrapping free school meals for primary school pupils.
It is the latest manifesto pledge the Tories have scrapped, with a free vote on fox hunting also axed today.
The party campaigned on scrapping the £600m free lunch programme and replacing it with free breakfasts for all primary school pupils, which they estimated at a cost of just £60m per year.
It would have meant free lunches being means-tested so only children from the most deprived households would have benefited.
Education minister Nick Gibb told MPs the decision came after the Government “listened very carefully” to the sector.
“We have listened very carefully to the views of the sector on the proposal to remove infant free school meals and we have decided that it is right to retain the existing provision,” he said.
“Universal free school meals ensure that children receive a nutritious meal during the day, it saves hard-working families hundreds of pounds a year and it boosts educational achievement, particularly children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”
The decision is thought to have been made in recent days, after a response to a ministerial response to a written question last Friday said the Government were “reflecting” on the pledge.
Tim Roache, General Secretary of the GMB union said: “Snatching lunches from school kids is a spectacularly bad idea and a sure fire vote loser.
"It's taken far too long for them to admit it, but the Government has seen sense in the end - the argument shouldn't be how we can take food away from hungry children, but how we can make sure no child or young person goes hungry full stop.
"This policy was bad news for kids, for parents and for the 17,000 hard-working school support staff whose jobs would have been put at risk."
The move comes shortly after the Government were forced to climb down on proposals to hold a vote into reintroducing fox-hunting.
The loss of a parliamentary majority has also seen ministers forced into dropping pledges to scrap the pensions' triple lock and means testing of the winter fuel allowance.
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