Saturday, June 30, 2007
Thatcher Milk Snatcher 1971
Thatcher Milk Snatcher 1971
Labour-controlled councils in several parts of Britain are-to seek ways of getting round the Education (Milk) Bill which makes it illegal for local education authorities to supply free milk to children over the age of seven, except in special circumstances. The Bill received its second reading on Monday night. During the course, of the debate Mr Edward Taylor, Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, warned authorities not to go ahead with any plans to break the law deliberately. Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State Education, said it was not possible as the law stood to have expenditure on free milk borne by the rates alone, as had been suggested.
That would mean a rise in the rates and that in turn would mean that central government would have to provide more money through the rate support grant to some authorities at the expense of others. An expert said yesterday that the difficulty could be overcome by use of the "free penny", the old penny rate that councils are empowered to raise under the 1963 Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act. The money must be used "in the interests of the area or its inhabitants". He said the Bill referred only to local education authorities and said that, provided the free penny rate was not being used already, there could be no objection to a council's using theproduct of the rate to provide free milk. But such a move would certainly be open to the objections raised by Mrs Thatcher; that it would do nothing to contain public expenditure and switch the destination of some public money.
There is a further possible objection in the 1963 Act, which lays down that the product of the penny rate can be used only for expenditure that cannot be authorized or required by reference to any other enactment. For example, an authority could not increase its welfare provision by using the penny rate That raises the question whether local authorities supplying milk on the rates might not be regarded as using the rate to supplement their welfare expenditure. The Bill will almost certainly be attacked by both the Association of Municipal Corporations, whose education committee passed by 11 votes to none a critical resolution on the subject, and the Association of Education Committees, which later this month will debate two motions on the issue. The first of these calls is for local education authorities to be allowed to supply milk if they so wish; the second is a direct attack on the Bill.
Sir William Alexander, secretary of the association said yesterday: "There is no objection to the Government saying how taxpayers money may be spent. What I object to is it saying how rate-payers' money should be spent". Labour councils are particularly aggrieved at the Bill in the light of Mrs Thatcher's views on secondary reorganization: that each authority should have freedom to decide for itself. The inner London Education Authority is in a unique position in the controversy because it is only an education authority. Canon Harvey Hinds, chairman of the schools subcommittee of the ILEA, said yesterday that the education committee would be going ahead with its proposal today that it should hold joints talks with the Inner London boroughs on how to keep supplying the milk.
Stephen Jessel Education Correspondent [The Times - 16. 6. 1971]
June 14th 1971
The Bill received its second reading . It was passed by 281 votes to 248, a government majority of 33.
The Conservatives then issued a warning to local authorities not to go ahead with any plans to break the law deliberately provide free school milk.
Mrs Thatcher told MPs the Chief Medical Officer had been consulted on the plans and he had advised that it was not possible to predict whether the withdrawal of free milk would harm children's diets and overall health.