Tories scrap plan for free school breakfasts in 'humiliating U-turn'

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Tory plans to offer all primary school children in England a free breakfast have been officially dropped in what Labour branded a “humiliating U-turn”.

After Theresa May failed to win a majority, the Government confirmed on Wednesday that the flagship Conservative manifesto pledge, which vowed to end the free lunches to save money and replace them with the breakfasts, had been scrapped.

It came after an announcement earlier this month that the existing system of free lunches for infants would remain.

In a Commons written answer, slipped out after Parliament had risen for its summer recess, Education Minister Robert Goodwill confirmed “we will not be pursuing universal breakfasts for primary school children and we will be retaining the existing provision for universal infant free school meals”.

But he said the Government would invest in a “breakfast club programme” announced in August last year, which committed £10 million a year raised from the sugar tax – officially the “soft drinks industry levy” – to expand provision in up to 1,600 schools.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “This is yet another humiliating U-turn on education policy from Theresa May’s weak and wobbly government.

“Breakfast doesn’t mean breakfast, and they have made a mess of it.

“To think that they spent the election campaign telling us that universal free school meals were unaffordable and promising to provide free breakfasts instead – at a paltry 7p a serving.

“Just weeks later they have abandoned that pledge as they beat a full scale retreat from their own manifesto. How can anyone believe a word they now say?

“Only Labour has a fully-funded plan to provide free school meals to all primary pupils while protecting schools’ budgets in real terms.”

 The Department for Education said minister Lord Nash told peers the breakfast plans had been abandoned earlier this month.

On July 4, he said: “As far as breakfast is concerned, we do not plan to introduce free breakfasts, although we will continue to work on a number of schemes for breakfast clubs, such as Magic Breakfast.”

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