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Welsh Tory Leader suggests it isn’t ‘sensible’ to extend free school meals in Wales

08 Dec 2021 4 minute read
Andrew RT Davies picture by Senedd Cymru (CC BY 2.0).

The Leader of the Welsh Tories has suggested that it is not “sensible” to give all primary school children in Wales free school meals.

Andrew RT Davies argued that “solicitors, estate agents and accountants” should not benefit from them and said he “would be grateful to understand the budgetary implications”.

The policy to extend free school meals forms part of a wide-ranging cooperation agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government.

In response to Davies, the Mark Drakeford made the case for universal services, and argued that means testing “casts a stigma” over the people the system is meant to help.

He also said that richer families “should pay” for free school meals “through the taxation system”.

Andrew RT Davies said: “On free school lunches, which is a central policy of the agreement that you’ve reached with Plaid Cymru, I’d be grateful and I’m sure many others would be grateful to understand the budgetary implications of this policy and to try and understand how it balances up with the need for those with the broadest shoulders to make the biggest contributions.

“I’m not sure it’s a sensible policy area where you have solicitors, estate agents and accountants benefiting from having free school lunches when the system already allows for those on challenging income positions to receive those free school lunches as they rightly should.

“I think the cheers in St Andrew’s Crescent in Cardiff, knowing that now they’re going to benefit from free school lunches, isn’t a good use of valuable public resources, to say the least.”

‘Fundamentally different view’ 

Mark Drakeford replied: “We have a fundamentally different view on the issue of means testing and universal services. I think school meals is in some ways the paradigm case for the impact that means testing has, because it casts a stigma over those people for whom the system is meant to be a beneficiary.

“I remember a very old story, Llywydd, which my colleague Jane Hutt and some others here will remember.

“The former leader of South Glamorgan County Council, Lord Jack Brooks, used to tell a story about how, as an 18-year-old, he went out to a dancehall here in Cardiff, all dressed up for the night, and he saw a young woman coming across the room to him and he thought that maybe his evening was going to be more successful than he had originally anticipated, and this young woman came up to him and said, ‘I know you’, she said, ‘You’re Jack Brooks, aren’t you?’ and he said, ‘Yes’, and she said, ‘You’re the one who used to have free school meals when we were in primary school together.’

“And even at that age, the hurt that that caused him had never left him and it must have been 50 years later that he told us that story and it was still vivid, you could tell in the way that he told it.

“And that’s why, on this side of the Chamber, we believe that universal services where there is no stigma attached—. And of course the people in St Andrews Crescent should pay, but they should pay through the taxation system, a graduated taxation system that takes more back from people who have more to start with, not means test the service so that those people who really need it don’t get the service they really need, they get all the disadvantages that go alongside it.

“My colleague Rebecca Evans will set out the budgetary implications; we’ve made proper budgetary provision for the policy set out in the agreement.”


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Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
Llywelyn ein Llyw Nesaf
1 year ago

I thought his thinking capacity may have improved during his break. Obviously not.

Doesn’t he realise that the administrative cost of NOT giving the meals to the children of “solicitors, estate agents and accountants” far outweighs the cost of giving them the meals?

Actually, silly question. Of course he doesn’t.

John
John
1 year ago

Pen stên – dyna oedd ei broblem.
Nid cyflwr ond gwacter!

Gareth
Gareth
1 year ago

If there is not a backhander in it, the Tory’s don’t want to know. I am waiting for one of them to propose a company to supply the meals, all above board of course, because they will either be a trusted family member, or a long established school meal supplier such as eg, Rio Tinto mining, Shell oil, Gazprom, you know, like the trusted PPE suppliers. Get that red carpet VIP access channel open LLywydd, then we could see Tory support for free meals in Cardiff.

Dail y Goeden
Dail y Goeden
11 months ago

Firstly, well done Mark Drakeford for the gracious and intelligent framing of his response: ““We have a fundamentally different view on the issue of means testing and universal services. I think school meals is in some ways the paradigm case for the impact that means testing has, because it casts a stigma over those people for whom the system is meant to be a beneficiary.” And secondly: well done him for supporting universal services. Their universality is important to all of us: important for those who otherwise would receive no service (school meals, medical care, library access, clean and well-kept… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  Dail y Goeden

What RT can’t get into his fat head is, that private companies benefit greatly from fit and healthy parents getting to work on time, as well as a well educated workforce, and this begins at preschool level.
It will be as good for Cymru as it is for Scandia.

Last edited 11 months ago by j humphrys
Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
11 months ago

Can we extend the Plaid/Labour agreement to include an electoral alliance to rid our country of as many of these Tory abominations as possible in the next election

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
11 months ago

I’d support using the German system that means Extremist parties have to gain 5% of the popular vote before they can win a single seat. Unfortunately, political parties are allowed to self identify and the Tories will never describe themselves as being on the actual platform they’re now on, a Fascist one.

Erisian
Erisian
11 months ago

Perhaps he like to end free prescriptions for all too, after all some of us might be able to afford them? It might offer an opportunity to outsource the means-testing to G4 or Capita, or any one of a number of cronies, sycophants or Tory donors.
After all, the private sector and market forces work so well don’t they?

BigPooba
BigPooba
11 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

I’d happily pay for my prescriptions given I can afford t do so. There is literally no need for me to have free prescriptions for one-off limited items.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 months ago

I doubt this man has ever missed a meal in his life !

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
11 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Is that a comment on his socio-economic background, or his weight?

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  Owain Morgan

See below.

John Howard Edwards
John Howard Edwards
11 months ago

The Tories dislike universal benefits. Free education at the point of delivery is a universal benefit, as is the NHS. If you are ill in hospital, do you have to pay for hospital meals? Of course not. So why should families be charged for meals in school during school hours?

Geraint
Geraint
11 months ago

Been here before. A popular policy change in 2007 with free prescriptions. Tories very strongly against the proposal. Election in 2021 and Tories come out in favour of the proposal 14 years too late. Again a Tories knee jerk reaction can be relied on to oppose legislation that makes the lives of some of the poorer members of our society better. Wonder how long it will take before they do a U turn on this policy and see that kids with empty stomachs does not support learning. Free school meals gives our youngest members of society a chance to break… Read more »

Lynne Edwards
Lynne Edwards
11 months ago

Incisive and intelligent opposition is a vital part of functioning democracy and one that our stumbling system needs to improve, in Wales as well as Westminster. I am pleased to see that Mr Davies is better, but no, he’s not what I have in mind

Gareth
Gareth
11 months ago

Anybody remember when he called on Vaughan Gething to apologise for calling out the Lyndsay Con club trip to Doncaster, calling critisism of the trip by the Welsh Gov, “staggering incompetence” “shambolic” when they criticised the club for running the trip. Only for one of the wives to go live on BBC Wales to tell the nation, quote ” a number of people had covid before they went ” pure gold No apology to V Gething from RT though, he just got back in his box.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-54189913

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago

Pompous fat ass!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

And no stranger to a fish supper…

Gerald Spawton
Gerald Spawton
11 months ago

Just because some children have well off parents doesn’t mean to say that their children are well cared for. By making sure all children are included takes away the need to stigmatise children in need. Typical Tory greed, it could be money in their pockets instead

Chris Franks
Chris Franks
11 months ago

Tories support free vaccines for all – rich and poor

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