Return of free milk in schools to be 'considered' by government

11th February 2016 at 13:31
Milk snatcher
Proposal would improve children's health and help hard-pressed milk producers, say peers

The government has agreed to consider a call for the reintroduction of free milk in schools to boost the nation's health.

At question time in the Lords, Tory Lord Lexden said there was a "widespread desire" to help hard-pressed milk producers.

In view of the "nutritional benefits", he said, "perhaps the time has come to consider reintroducing compulsory milk in our schools, which has helped to make so many of us healthy".

Education minister Lord Nash said he must have drunk at least three or four pints of milk a day "in those days".

He added: "I certainly will take this back for consideration."

Milk in schools has been an emotive issue for the Conservatives since 1971, when the late Baroness Thatcher, education secretary at the time, was nicknamed the "milk snatcher" for stopping over-7s from receiving the drink for free.

Health benefits for pupils

Independent crossbencher Baroness Masham said many children came to school without having had breakfast.

Challenging the minister over the provision of milk, she warned that some children were getting the bone disease rickets.

Lord Nash said it was "deeply concerning" that many children came to school not having eaten properly, adding: "This can't help their concentration."

He said the government had funded a breakfast programme, which had resulted in nearly 200 new schools offering breakfast in disadvantaged areas.

To laughter, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Peter Forster, said: "If free milk is to be made available again in schools, could you confirm it wouldn't be compulsory since for some of us it contains memories of a cruel and unusual punishment?"

Lord Nash agreed that were the government to reintroduce it, drinking milk would not be mandatory.

A Government spokesperson said: “Milk is an excellent food for children’s growth and development. That is why, under the revised School Food Standards, schools must ensure it is available to all pupils.

"Thanks to Universal Infant Free School Meals, pupils under 7 are already eligible for free milk at school with their lunch,  along with older pupils who are entitled to free meals. This is in addition to the free milk provided for children under-5 thanks to the Nursery Milk Scheme.”

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