Clegg Announces Free School Meals for All Infants in England

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced all children between four and seven years old will be entitled to a taxpayer-funded school lunch from next year, a bid to boost attainment through proper nutrition and help parents squeezed by inflation.

The free meal for children in England will save the average family 437 pounds ($695) a year per child, compensating in part for the coalition’s government’s withdrawal this year of universal child benefit for higher earners. The measure will cost 600 million pounds a year, with details due to be set out in the fall.

“I’m announcing now that we are going to provide free school meals to all youngsters in infant school -- the first three years at primary school,” Clegg told Channel 5 News today at his Liberal Democrat party’s annual conference in Glasgow, Scotland. “That’s really good for all families with small children. It means that they will make a saving, if they are paying for those school meals, of around 400 pounds per child per year.”

Clegg told Sky News television that he would use the policy to highlight the differences between his Liberal Democrats and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives.

“The Conservatives are very attached to the idea of a so-called married tax break,” he said. “Our approach is to help all families with small children, so you can see quite a contrast there. The Conservatives want to single out certain families, we want to help all families with young children.”

The Liberal Democrat leader also criticized the Tories for their unwillingness to go along with his party’s plan for a so-called mansion tax on houses valued at more than 2 million pounds.

“The question for the Conservatives is if they are not prepared to ask people in socking great mansions to pay a bit extra, which public services are going to suffer because they are going to have to find those 2 billion pounds from spending cuts instead?” he told Channel 4 television.

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