HC Deb 17 May 1988 vol 133 cc786-7
2. Mr. Janner

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement concerning the removal of the discretionary power of local authorities to provide free milk for children in special schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Bob Dunn)

Children whose families are in receipt of income support continue to receive free milk. Nothing in the Social Security Act 1986 prevents a local education authority from providing subsidised milk at lunch time to other children attending special schools, provided that milk offered to children attending mainstream schools receives the same level of subsidy.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware that, as a result of the Government's recent mean and miserly measures, free school meals have been removed from a majority of children in special schools, and, with them, the right to free school milk? Is not taking the milk from the mouths of children with special needs a thoroughly nasty and disgraceful act which has caused enormous harm and ill-will among thousands of children and to those who teach them, not least in Greenacres school for special needs children in my constituency?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. and learned Gentleman uses intemperate language. I must remind him and the House that the latest survey showed that before the implementation of the Social Security Act 1986, 39 of the 97 authorities in England did not exercise their discretion to provide free milk to children attending special schools. Of those authorities, 13 were Conservative-controlled, one was Liberal—heaven forbid—16 were hung councils and nine were controlled by the Labour party.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will my hon. Friend confirm that not only do 100,000 more children in special and ordinary schools receive an allowance through their parents for free school meals than formerly, but that the allowance covers free school meals throughout the year, not simply during term time, as under the previous Labour Government?

Mr. Dunn

My hon. Friend the is absolutely right in his interpretation. I remind the House that it was always our intention that financial benefits should be concentrated on those in financial need. That is right and proper.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Minister aware that he can play around with statistics, but he will never convince the people who live in Kent who are very angry about the fact that in excess of 4,000 children will lose free school meals? Does his conscience not prick him—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is a question about meals later. This is about milk.

Mr. Dunn

I should like to know by what authority the hon. Gentleman seeks to speak for the county of Kent.

Mr. Tony Banks

He speaks for England.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not responsible for what the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) says.

Mr. Dunn

If the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) speaks for England, heaven help the country.