Dairy farmer boost as PM steps in to save free school milk scheme

Dairy farmers breathed a collective sigh of relief after the prime minister vetoed plans to axe free school milk for children under five.

David Cameron scrapped the proposal just hours after education minister David Willetts appeared on television to discuss the money-saving measure on Sunday (8 August).

Junior health minister Anne Milton had also announced that the government would consider cutting the third of a pint of milk given free to children under five, with officials claiming the move would save the government £50m as part of its bid to slash public spending and reverse the budget deficit.

The move would have extended Margaret Thatcher’s 1971 decision to scrap free milk for children over seven, earning her the nickname the “Milk Snatcher”.

But in an abrupt U-turn Mr Cameron said the government would continue to pay for children to have milk.

The decision is a boost to the country’s dairy industry, which has seen poor prices and a decline in the number of dairy farmers over the past few years.

Jim Begg, director general of Dairy UK, welcomed the decision to reject the proposals.

“We are very pleased that the government has seen the light on this issue and David Cameron is reflecting the views of parents throughout the country that free milk for children attending nurseries is an excellent way of providing them with drink that is nutritionally very important,” he said.

“Dairy UK made strong representations to various government departments and ministers on the proposals and we are delighted that common sense has prevailed.”