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Not Satisfied With Snatching Their Milk in the 1970s, The Tories Now Seem Set to Steal the Lunches of Children

30/09/2015 09:48 BST | Updated 29/09/2016 10:12 BST

In my recent speech at party conference I spoke about some of the Liberal Democrat achievements in government like ending the detention of children of asylum seekers and same sex marriage. Another thing I spoke about was the implementation of Universal Infant Free School Meals. This was a flagship Lib Dem policy, saving families over £400 a year, per child and providing a healthy lunch to every five, six and seven-year-old.

Furthermore, the evidence shows where children have been given a free school lunch, their results improved compared to youngsters who didn't get one.

These academic improvements were most marked among children from the poorest backgrounds. It is a good policy that will deliver results for disadvantaged students in communities up and down the UK.

But like quite a lot of coalition achievements the Conservatives are trying to row back on it. And when asked if they are safe, the Prime Minister found it impossible to say 'Yes'.

By scrapping this policy they would take food off the plates of thousands children across Britain who now benefit from a free healthy meal at lunchtime.

In fact, Mr Cameron told Sky News: "We're very proud of what we've done with free school meals. It was an excellent reform carried out in the last parliament."

He added: "We are now going to have a spending review where obviously we have to make sure that we are delivering on our spending promises, but we are very proud of what we've done with free school meals."

The spin belies his actual words.

Children from all backgrounds, rich and poor sitting down for lunch together, ending any stigma of young pupils having to admit they receive free school meals is a good thing. I will not sit by while the Conservatives equivocate on this. My party is utterly opposed to it's removal.

The Tories are taking an axe to the education budget at the expense of children's learning.

Not satisfied with snatching milk in the 1970s, they now seem set to steal the lunches of children.

The Liberal Democrats fought tooth and nail to deliver this in Coalition because we want every child to have the best possible start in life and be able to concentrate in class. All the evidence shows that a healthy meal helps with that. Instead of further investing in our children, the Tories are turning up at the school gate and stealing their lunch money.

My message to the Prime Minister is this - give us a guarantee that it is safe, not unsourced quotes. You say you are proud of this Lib Dem policy - I am too. But until you say it is safe, we will keep working, fighting and campaigning for this policy.

Tim Farron is the leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale