HC Deb 19 March 1985 vol 75 c765
5. Mr. Eastham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the education meals service.

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

The school meals service is the responsibility of the local education authorities. A number of individual authorities have made substantial net savings in expenditure in this area since 1979–80, and the Government expect others to do the same.

Mr. Eastham

Is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State aware that when the Government issue circulars, especially about the privatisation of school meals, there is no reference to the supervision of school meals, which forms a considerable part of the school meals' costings? In the city of Manchester, for example, the supervision of school meals costs £750,000. Will the Minister ensure that if authorities privatise school meals the cost of supervision is included?

Mr. Dunn

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but I believe that, far too few local education authorities are embarking on the privatisation of the school meals service. If they did, a great deal of money could be saved and spent in other areas of the education service.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

Does my hon. Friend agree that, apart from the possibility of privatisation, authorities, such as the Inner London education authority, could raise a substantial sum merely by keeping their school meals' prices in line with the cost of living?

Mr. Dunn

My hon. Friend is entirely right. He knows, and the House must know, that ILEA has not increased school meals charges since 1979. In that sense, a great deal of Londoners' money is being spent unnecessarily on the school meals service, instead of being a saving for ratepayers.