HC Deb 15 March 1977 vol 928 cc194-5
3. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement about the policy of the Government towards charges for school meals, in the light of the projections for expenditure in the public expenditure White Paper.

Miss Margaret Jackson

The Government's policy on charging is set out on page 72 of Volume II of the White Paper.

Mr. Gow

Does the hon. Lady recall that in the White Paper of February 1976 it was stated that the charge for school meals would go up from 15p to 20p in September of last year? Bearing in mind that that did not happen—the Government broke their own undertaking—may the House assume that this time the Government mean what they say and that the charge for school meals will be 25p this autumn?

Miss Jackson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the negotiations on the last round of the social contract included a request that instead of the school meal going up to 20p in September 1976 the increase should be postponed until September this year, when the cost is expected to go up to 25p. Like the hon. Gentleman, I am not a prophet, but that is what is intended.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does my hon. Friend accept that many working people with large families are very concerned about increases in the cost of school meals and of bus transport to school and that they feel much more deeply about such increases resulting indirectly from Government policy than about those applied by the private sector? Will she ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to use her considerable power within the Cabinet to get the decision reversed, even at this stage?

Miss Jackson

We are concerned to avoid imposing more increases than are absolutely necessary, but I must remind my hon. Friend that the subsidy on school meals has risen substantially, and unfortunately we have not felt able to continue it at that level any longer. That is why, sadly, the price is intended to be raised in September.