On this day in history : 15th June 1971 – Opposition grows to Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher’s plans to end free school milk for the over sevens…. Some councils threaten to defy the ban….
School children began to receive a third of a pint of milk per day in 1946 with the advent of the welfare state…. However, the Labour Government had already stopped milk for secondary schools by 1968…. When the Conservatives came to power it was to a bleak economic situation – but election promises on tax had to be met….
Margaret Thatcher knew how controversial stopping the free milk would be – and she was absolutely horrified when Health Secretary Ken Clarke suggested it also be stopped for nursery school children…. She had considered other measures, such as charging admission to museums, or charging to borrow library books….but in the end it was with reluctance that she put forward the proposal…. The Bill received a second reading on the 14th of June and was passed by 281 votes to 248….
Local authorities were urged not to break the law by deliberately going against government policy…. Some Labour councils had threatened to put up rates in order to fund school milk…. It was argued that withdrawing milk could potentially harm children’s diets and health…. Thatcher reasoned that the money saved could be spent in other ways, such as on school buildings…. Indeed the milk bill was coming in at £14m a year – double the amount being spent on books….
Needless to say the political storm raged on – and the public also showed their anger…. The playground taunt ‘Thatcher, Thatcher milk snatcher!’ was heard far and wide…. In fact the cuts did not stop there – with various measures put into place with regards to education funding…. A £200m package was approved in September 1971, which also saw the cost of school dinners raised….