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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 5:50 pm, 1st February 1995

I apologise to my hon. Friend for not mentioning Wolverhampton in my list of places which would receive a refund if their councils were as well supplied with Government funds as Westminster. However, we do not have time to list them all. He reiterates what Labour Members have said: in most cases, people will pay more and receive less.

I shall give some examples of what is happening to council services. As more children are living in poverty today than at any time in the past 30 years, school meals should be becoming more important. In 1979, when the Government came to power, 63 per cent. of children took school meals; now the figure is only 43 per cent. The reason is that the price of school meals has increased from 20p all over the country to 120p in some areas, while at the same time nutritional standards have been abandoned.

Will the Secretary of State confirm whether there will be further rises in the price of school meals in the coming year? Will nutritional standards fall further? We asked him those questions when he delivered his statement in December but he did not answer. If he cannot be bothered to answer now, it is clear that he does not care.