HC Deb 16 December 1974 vol 883 cc318-20W
Mr. Gould

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if the results of the October census of school meals are now available; how they compare with those of the census carried out in October 1973; and whether he will comment on these arrangements for free meals.

Mr. Prentice

In October 5,773,000 or 70.1 per cent. of pupils present at maintained schools in England and Wales took the school dinner compared with 5,416,000 or 661 per cent. in October 1973. Free dinners served in October numbered 750,000 or 13 per cent. of the total compared with 795,000 or 147 per cent. last year.

A detailed statement of the returns from local education authorities on which these figures are based will be placed in the Library. Because of the changes in local government areas which took place during the year it is not possible on this occasion to provide comparable figures for 1973. This statement, with the agreement of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, includes returns from Welsh authorities.

The census collected information about pupils buying snack meals in schools and those bringing their own food to eat at midday. The numbers were 26,000 and 458,000 compared with 23,000 and 526,000 last year.

On the day of the census, school dinners were being taken by 76.5 per cent. of all pupils present in primary schools— 72.3 per cent. last year—and by 60.4 per cent. in secondary schools—56.5 per cent. last year. All but 3,000 of the snack meals were being taken in secondary schools and 9 per cent. of secondary pupils brought sandwiches compared with 3 per cent. of primary pupils.

The reduced number of free dinners served may be attributed to the general rise in incomes. I intend, however, to remind authorities of the need to take great care that children are not deterred from taking advantage of the free school dinners to which they may be entitled or caused embarrassment by local administrative arrangements.

Mr. Gould

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the school meal charge.

Mr. Prentice

As part of their general review of public expenditure the Government have been examining the charge for the school dinner. The present charge of 12p was introduced in 1971 and now

Notified to Employment Offices Notified to Careers Offices
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 1,783 1,101
Mining and Quarrying 3,502 285
Food, Drink and Tobacco 6,803 1,758
Coal and Petroleum Products 201 59
Chemicals and Allied Industries 4,498 866
Metal Manufacture 6,820 1,065
Mechanical Engineering 20,415 2,559
Instrument Engineering 3,476 768
Electrical Engineering 13,637 1,887
Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering 2,210 162
Vehicles 10,736 510
Metal Goods not elsewhere specified 11,182 2,844
Textiles 6,342 2,297
Leather, Leather Goods, and Fur 939 500
Clothing and Footwear 11,515 4,907
Bricks, Pottery, Glass, Cement, etc 3,017 653
Timber, Furniture, etc 3,485 1,155
Paper, Printing and Publishing 4,484 2,098
Other Manufacturing Industries 5,377 1,110
Construction 13,747 2,656
Gas, Electricity and Water 1,529 339
Transport and Communication 18,985 1795
Distributive Trades 31,295 15,358
Insurance, Banking, Finance and Business Services 9,617 3,133
Professional and Scientific Services 23,042 3,920
Miscellaneous Services 37,346 9,317
Public Administration and Defence 14,890 2,741
Total, all industries and services 270,873 65,843
Where a vacancy is notified by an employer to both an employment office and a careers office it is included in both counts; for this reason the two counts are not added to give a figure of total notified vacancies.
The numbers of notified vacancies were not received for a small proportion of offices and the table includes estimates for these offices.

represents less than 40 per cent. of the average cost of providing the meal. The Government have decided that a new charge of 15p should be introduced as from next April when the revised rates of family allowances, supplementary benefits and a new remission scale for determining entitlement to free school meals will also be introduced.

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