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- Schools minister confirms that the pledge to give all primary school children a free breakfast has been dropped. Announcement is slipped out as a written answer during parliamentary recess. Conservatives had budgeted just 6.8 pence for each breakfast. This is the latest of a long series of pledges dropped by the government since the election. Other pledges on grammar schools, the dementia tax, fox hunting and pensions all axed.
LONDON – Theresa May has broken her manifesto promise to give all primary school children a free breakfast.
The Conservative’s general election manifesto promised that “under a new Conservative government, schools in England will offer a free school breakfast to every child in every year of primary school”.
However, a written answer slipped out during parliamentary recess, confirms that the government have dropped their promise.
“As far as breakfast is concerned, we do not plan to introduce free breakfasts,” School system minister Lord Nash admitted.
May’s pledge ran into trouble during the election campaign after it emerged that the government had budgeted just £60 million, which worked out at only 6.8 pence for each child’s breakfast.
Experts suggested the policy would in reality have costed some £400 million to deliver.
The admission follows the government’s abandonment of their pledge to scrap free school lunches for primary school children.
It is the latest of a whole series of key manifesto pledges dropped by the government since May failed to win a majority in last month’s general election.
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary told Schools Week that the announcement was “yet another humiliating U-turn on education policy from Theresa May’s weak and wobbly government”.
“Their claims that free school meals were unaffordable and that they would provide free breakfasts instead have now been abandoned alongside so many of the promises they made just weeks ago,” she told Schools Week.
“How can anyone now believe a word they say?”
Other manifesto promises dropped by May
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One of May’s biggest election promises was to bring back grammar schools. The Conservative manifesto promised that: “We will lift the ban on the establishment of selective schools” and allow the return of a new wave of grammars. However, there is sizeable opposition to the policy within the Conservative party, the opposition, education experts and others, so May has decided to drop the policy altogether. She will instead invest in technical education. The Conservatives have confirmed that bringing back grammars will not be taken forward in this parliament.
The Dementia tax
The biggest controversy of the general election was May’s plans to reform social care. The policy, which was quickly dubbed “the dementia tax” is widely credited with costing May her majority. The whole policy has now been ditched. Instead May now promises to “work with partners at all levels including those who use services and who work to provide care, to bring forward proposals for public consultation. The government will consult on options [on social care] to encourage a wider debate.”
Another big vote-loser for May was her proposal to have a free vote on bringing back fox hunting. The policy was regularly brought up on the doorstep and became a major campaigning issue for the Conservatives’ opponents, particularly online. However, there is no mention of the proposals in the Queen’s speech and a Conservative spokesman told BI that this was “not a priority” any longer for the government.
Cutting winter fuel payments
May’s plans to cut winter fuel payments for wealthier pensioners was incredibly badly received by older voters, who until that point had been planning to vote in overwhelming numbers for the Conservatives. This policy, along with the dementia tax, are widely credited with having torn down May’s firewall with older voters. Unsurprisingly there was absolutely no mention of the plans in the Queen’s speech or accompanying documents.
Ending the pensions triple lock
The Conservative manifesto promised to end the triple lock on pensions by 2020. Under the triple lock the value of the state pensions goes up by either inflation, average earnings or a minimum of 2.5%, depending on which is highest.
Under the proposals, May would have ended the 2.5% commitment, effectively making it a double rather than a triple lock. Again, the policy was hugely unpopular and now appears to have been dropped. A spokesman for May said the triple lock would continue until at least 2020 but did not comment on whether it would be lifted after that.
Scrapping free school lunches
Among the manifesto policies almost designed to lose votes to Labour was May’s pledge to scrap free school lunches for infant school children and replace them with free breakfasts. The policy was deeply unpopular with parents, would have saved significantly less money than originally believed and would have been fought hard against by the likes of Jamie Oliver and other big-name campaigners. Today’s announcement confirms that both parts of this pledge have now been dropped.