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Corkers
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U-turns

Free school milk

  • Government considers scrapping free milk for under-fives – The Daily Telegraph, 7 Aug 2010
  • Downing Street rejects child milk scheme cut suggestion – BBC, 8 Aug 2010

One day, Tory ministers propose the scrapping of free milk for under-fives, as the Telegraph reported:

The government is considering scrapping free milk for under-fives as part of the spending cuts.

Ministers said there was no evidence the Nursery Milk scheme improved health and, at a cost of around £50 million a year, was too expensive to run.

Anne Milton, the Health minister, admitted the move – which would echo the Conservative Party’s removal of free school milk in 1971 – would be “highly controversial” and affect children in low income families.

The Department of Health said scrapping the scheme was being considered from April next year as part of the Government’s Spending Review being carried out.

A spokesman said: “This is one of the options we’re looking at in terms of the Spending Review.

“One of the options we are considering is to remove the scheme and increase the value of the Healthy Start voucher but no final decision has been taken.”

The next, Number 10 immediately u-turns – leaving senior minister David Willetts looking clueless, as the BBC reports:

Plans to scrap free milk for children under five will not go ahead, Downing Street has said.

It comes after UK health minister Anne Milton set out the proposals in a letter to Scottish public health minister Shona Robison.

Downing Street said Prime Minister David Cameron “did not like” the idea of scrapping the free milk scheme…

The intervention left Universities Minister David Willetts floundering in a television interview on the BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, when he initially said ending the provision was on the table along with “a whole range of options” – only to be informed on air that it had been ruled out.

Later, the Department of Health said ending the scheme was an option that had been “considered” but it had “decided to rule it out”.

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