Critics attack free meals cost

Concerns are being raised about the Government's ability to afford a £1 billion giveaway handing all children under eight free school meals alongside a likely tax break for married couples.

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Laws dismisses criticism of free school meals

Free school meals for infants will not be funded by taxing the poor, the minister for schools has told Daybreak.

Liberal Democrat David Laws was adamant the £1 billion giveaway would be funded by closing tax loopholes which would "ensure policies such as this can be progressive".

The Chancellor will announce full funding details of the free school meals policy later this year in the Autumn Statement, Mr Laws added.

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Critics attack free meals as 'bad use of public money'

Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam visited a school in Kirkintilloch yesterday. Credit: PA

Concerns are being raised about the Government's ability to afford a £1 billion giveaway handing all children under eight free school meals alongside a likely tax break for married couples.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the £600 million school meals scheme under a deal with the Conservatives to allow them to press ahead with a tax break for married couples that is widely expected to cost around £500 million.

A Treasury spokesman said any plans for more spending or cuts "would be taken forward in the Autumn Statement".

Attacking the scheme, the Taxpayers' Alliance described it as a "conference gimmick" while the Institute of Economic Affairs said it was "an enormously bad use of public money".

Free school meals for infant school children: Your views

Following the Government's announcement that every child at infant school in England will receive a free school meal from next September, ITV News viewers have been giving their views on social media:

All children should get free school dinners until they are 18 unless the parents opt out.

Good nutrition, table manners, and the social side of eating a meal together is missed in many households these days and should be part of education, not a profit making business.

– Claire Thirlwell McGuire

Why do we want kids fed at school? The meals are of poor quality, nutritionally poor and another step to the state taking over from parents.

– Brian Baillie

I would love to see all school children get a good balanced meal. It's been proven that it helps with the learning process (amongst other things).

And if it's given to all children then there is no distinction between those who can afford it and those who can't.

– Pamela Hardy

Read: Government to spend £600m on free school meal plan

Clegg and wife visit a school for meals announcement

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez took a break from the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow to visit a primary school ahead of the Government announcement on free school meals today.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife took a break from the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow to visit a primary school Credit: PA Wire

The Lib Dem leader announced a new £600 million scheme giving all infant school children in England a free school meal from September 2014.

The measure is aimed at helping financially-stretched families but will also have education and health benefits, Mr Clegg said.

The Government's plan to give every child at infant school in England a free meal will cost approximately £600 million. Credit: PA Wire

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Report authors tweet pride over free school meals

The authors of the original School Food Plan which called for the introduction of free school meals have praised the Government for introducing free meals for infant school children in England.

Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, who co-authored the Government-commissioned review into school meals, tweeted their pride at the new policy:

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proud of our country tonight. Universal Free School meals for the first three years of primary school. #schoolfoodplan well done the govt

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Universal free school meals for reception, year 1, and year 2. From next september. WOWSER. #schoolfood

Read: School Food Plan urges ban on packed lunches

Free meals will 'make a real difference for children'

A leading children's charity has welcomed the Government's plans to give all infant school children in England free school meals, saying it will "make a real difference for children" and financially stretched families.

The Chief Executive at 4Children, Anne Longfield OBE, said:

This is a welcome announcement which is likely to be popular with parents and make a real difference for children. From what we have heard, it has the makings of the kind of policy that parents are looking for from all political parties, understanding the importance of nutritious healthy food and recognising the financial pressure families are under.

Regular, nutritious meals are crucial in supporting the healthy development of children. Importantly, helping in this way should provide some welcome relief to the finances of those families with young children who we know have been hit hard by the economic downturn.

Government to spend £600m on free school meal plan

The Government's plan to give every child at infant school in England a free meal will cost approximately £600 million

Disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges will also be eligible for free school meals from September 2014.

Full details on the scheme's funding will be announced in the Autumn Statement 2013, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced.

Read: Clegg: 'First step on way to free school meals for all'

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