Speaking before the Scottish Government's expected announcement on free school meals, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their calls for the Welsh Labour Government to introduce free school meals in Wales.
In a Holyrood debate this afternoon, Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, has tabled a motion recognising "that free school meals help tackle child poverty and promote child welfare and educational attainment; further recognises that free school meals save families at least £330 per child per year; confirms its commitment to increasing the number of primary school pupils eligible for free school meals". According to media reports, he will be meeting free school meals campaigners before the debate and then will be making the announcement in the chamber.
This follows Nick Clegg's announcement that the Coalition Government is making free school meals in England available for primary school children and disadvantaged college students from September 2014. Wales will receive over £65 million over a two year period because of this policy being enacted in England. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently called for a similar policy to be replicated in Wales.
Aled Roberts AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Minister, said:
"Welsh Labour Government inaction on this important policy will leave Welsh pupils at a serious disadvantage. Both England and Scotland see the strong merits in offering free school meals to young children, yet this unambitious Labour Government is against the idea.
"Every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. It will help with their studies and also ensure they are eating a healthy diet.
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats understand the financial strain families are under and we are doing all we can to help people in difficult times. We want the Welsh Labour Government to introduce free school meals to ease the pressure families are under.
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats have recently launched a petition callingon the Welsh Labour Government to introduce a free hot lunch scheme for all children in reception year 1 and year 2. I urge people to visit our website and sign the online petition to let the Welsh Labour Government know the strength of feeling on this issue."
The petition can be signed here: http://welshlibdems.org.uk/meals