HC Deb 17 February 1994 vol 237 c929W
Mr. Moss

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the application of the Welfare Food Amendment Regulations 1992 to schools catering for under-fives.

Mr. Sackville

The policy intention was that the 1992 amendment regulations should simply delete references in the Welfare Food Regulations 1988 to the Nurseries and Childminders Regulation Act 1948, insert appropriate references to the Children Act 1989 and incorporate other changes to harmonise with the 1989 Act. There was no intention to change any entitlement under the regulations. However, we have received legal advice that the unintended effect of the amendment regulations was to remove the possibility of schools running classes for under-fives from participating in the welfare food scheme. This means that an estimated £3.3 million including £0.52 million in Scotland and £0.18 million in Wales paid between April 1992 and April 1994 will have been paid on a basis which is incorrect on the strict interpretation of the law. In addition, a number of schools have been registered under the scheme without statutory authority. We intend to continue registering new applicants and making payments on an extra-statutory basis to ensure that schools may participate in the welfare food scheme so as to provide free milk to children under five in line with the policy intention. Appropriate statutory authority will be obtained as soon as possible. The total amount to be paid on this basis, initially estimated at a cost of £150,000 per month in England, £22,000 in Scotland and £13,000 in Wales will be reported in notes to the relevant Departments' appropriation accounts for 1993–94. There is no possibility of any child losing entitlement under the welfare food scheme as a result of the above arrangements.