School Meals

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st October 1983.

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Photo of Mr Gareth Wardell Mr Gareth Wardell , Gower 12:00 am, 31st October 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of school meals consumed by pupils in each county in the Principality is provided free of charge.

Photo of Mr John Stradling Thomas Mr John Stradling Thomas , Monmouth

With permission, I shall circulate the details in the Official Report.

Photo of Mr Gareth Wardell Mr Gareth Wardell , Gower

As one in five of all pupils on the school roll in each of the education districts in west Glamorgan was in receipt of free school meals at the end of September 1983—an increase of 552 pupils on September 1982—what special steps, if any, does the Minister intend to take to ensure that the children of west Glamorgan and of Wales generally will in future not have to endure the level of poverty that is shown so tragically and clearly by the current level of free school meals being claimed in west Glamorgan and throughout the Principality?

Photo of Mr John Stradling Thomas Mr John Stradling Thomas , Monmouth

The hon. Gentleman knows that the eligibility rules for free school meals vary between authorities. There are wide variations arising from the higher take-up of school meals in rural areas compared with the urban areas. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are statutory safeguards that bear on the way in which local authorities administer the free school meal system, but implementation is a matter entirely for them. I reject the contention that the figures show increased poverty. However, I recognise that there is a high level of unemployment in the area, which will be a contributory factor.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Meirionnydd Nant Conwy

Does the Minister accept that he should reconsider the Government's decision not to have basic minimum nutritional standards for the school meals that are provided? Does he accept that the variation between authorities in the provision of meals is not tolerable?

Photo of Mr John Stradling Thomas Mr John Stradling Thomas , Monmouth

At a time when resources are admittedly scarce, I think that the removal of centrally determined nutritional standards has enabled local education authorities to provide the sort of food that pupils want and thereby reduce the amount of food wasted.

Following are the details

Based on the annual census taken in the autumn of 1982, the number of pupils receiving a free school meal expressed as a percentage of the total number of pupils taking meals on that particular day in each county in Wales was as follows:

Number per cent.
Gwynedd27·6
West Glamorgan35·2
Powys17·7
Gwent39·9
Mid Glamorgan33·4
Clwyd30·8
South Glamorgan49·7
Dyfed18·8