HC Deb 03 May 1971 vol 816 cc1005-6
28. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the effect on the school meals service in Wales of the higher charge for school meals.

Mr. Peter Thomas

It is estimated that there will be a fall of about 12 per cent. in the number of children taking school meals as a result of the higher charge.

Mr. Jones

That was an astonishing answer. Does the Secretary of State agree that this increase is punitive for the children of parents who are already struggling to meet the rise in the cost of bus fares? Does he also agree that in the school kitchens it might be thought that the beginning of the end of the school meals service is in sight? Is it not a fact that there may soon be redundancies in school kitchens?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I do not think it was an astonishing answer. It is an estimate, and it is difficult to estimate with accuracy. The hon. Gentleman will remember that on the two occasions when the previous Administration raised the school meals charge the numbers not taking school meals were quite considerable for a time, but they fell within a few months. It is extremely difficult to do more than estimate, but the estimate is that it will be about 12 per cent.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that most people in Wales would regard as scandalous the Government's suggestion, in the education debate the week before last, that for children whose parents cannot afford school lunches and who do not qualify for free lunches, a system of half or partial lunches should be introduced? Will he tell us on what nutrional advice he bases such a crazy policy?

Mr. Peter Thomas

That is an announcement which I never made concerning Wales. The increases in the charge for school meals will be offset by the introduction of a more generous scale for the remission of meals charges.