May branded ‘milk snatcher’ as UK Govt bury bad news for English nursery kids

Alasdair Clark

Labour have said Tory plans to change free milk provision for children are straight from Margaret Thatchers ‘milk snatcher’ playbook

IN A WEEK for burying bad news, Theresa May’s government has insisted that cuts to free milk provision for English children is a “reduction” in quality and quantity, rather than a mirroring of Margaret Thatcher’s notorious policy in the 1970’s when she withdrew free school milk.

The UK Government has proposed changes to the current provision of free milk for nursery children in England, prompting comparisions by the Labour party to the notorius policy adopted by Margaret Thatcher in 1971 which haunted her career and saw her dubbed “the milk snatcher”.

Introduced by the Labour government in 1946, universal free milk for young people became a staple of post-war British society until Margaret Thatcher, then education secretary under Tory prime minister Edward Heath, cut the programme to only include children under seven.

Nearly 60 years later, Theresa May’s government are set to unveil cost saving plans which would reduce the “quality and quantity” of the current provision which entitles nursery children under five to a third of a pint of free milk each day.

Official figures estimate that up to one in three children could go to school without having breakfast, and advocates of the programme have long argued that the provision of universal free milk could be key to tackling malnourishment.

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Condemning the plan, a Labour spokesperson said: “Theresa May is copying from the Thatcher milk snatcher playbook. Low-income families deserve support but it should be big businesses and the super-rich who pay for it, not nursery children,” a spokesperson said.

Tory MP’s were also critical of the plan, with one telling The Times that altering the scheme would be “toxic” despite the government spin.

Opposition politicians have accused the government of attempting to bury bad news as Westminster shuts down for summer, using the cover to make a series of difficult announcements including the Ministry of Defence decision to shelve plans to build five frigates at the Rosyth dockyard in Fife.

The move also follows the new Tory Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, being forced to admit that although there would be “adequate” food supplies in the event of a no deal Brexit, the government would be warning suppliers to stockpile certain foods and medicines.

Raab told the Brexit select committee that the government would put in place contingency plans to “make sure there is adequate food supplies.”

“It would be wrong to describe it as the government doing the stockpiling. And, of course, the idea that we only get food imports into this country from one continent is not appropriate.

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“But we will look at the issue in the round and make sure there is adequate food supply.”

Commenting after the remarks, SNP MP Stephen Gethins said:  “Brexit continues to be an utter mess – completely against Scotland’s interests as the Tories drag us towards the cliff edge of a No Deal Brexit, despite our overwhelming vote to Remain.

“And today, Dominic Raab has confirmed that food stockpiling plans are in place for a No Deal Brexit. It is utterly staggering that we find ourselves in this situation.”

Westminster will re-convene on the 4 September.

Picture courtesy of Raul Mee (EU2017EE)