The Bill

The School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill 2017-19 is a Private Member’s Bill presented to Parliament by Rt Hon Frank Field MP, and received its First Reading on 5 September 2017.

The Bill would require local authorities to facilitate the delivery of programmes that provide free meals and activities for children during school holidays; and for connected purposes.

Clause 1 of the Bill would give the Secretary of State a power to, through regulations, establish a pilot programme of free meals and activities during school holidays to children in areas of high deprivation in England, facilitated and coordinated by local authorities.  The pilot would last no longer than a year.  Clause 2 would require a review of the pilot to be carried out and laid before Parliament within a year of the pilot’s conclusion.

Clause 3 would require local authorities to facilitate and coordinate school meals and activities during the school holidays, with the meals provided free of charge for children where requested.  Clause 6 provides for regulations to be made to commence this duty.

Clauses 4 and 5 would enable the meals to be produced using surplus food stock from supermarkets and food manufacturers, and set standards for the food to be used, as well as enabling further standards to be set for food delivery and providers.

Clauses 7 to 9 provide definitions, set procedural rules for regulations, and make financial provisions.

As set out in Clause 10, the Bill would extend to England and Wales.  This is a devolved area and commencement of the duties in Clause 3 would be a matter for the Welsh Assembly.

PQ response: Government position

The Government has stated in responses to Parliamentary Questions that it is considering the Bill.  See for example:

Chris Williamson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether her Department is taking steps to ensure that children in receipt of free school meals do not go hungry over the Christmas period.

  • Mr Robert Goodwill: Free school meals are only provided to eligible pupils attending school during term time and schools are not required to provide food for children during the holidays. Some local councils may, however, decide to allocate some of their funding to programmes that help families who find it difficult to provide their children with healthy meals during the holidays.
  • We are currently considering the School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill, which considers this issue, and will be responding in due course. [PQ 116300, 7 December 2017]

APPG report April 2017

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger, chaired by Frank Field, published a report in April 2017, Hungry Holidays, which discussed the extent, causes, and impact of children not being adequately fed during the school holidays.

The report also made recommendations for:

  • A statutory requirement for local authorities to facilitate and co-ordinate the delivery of free meals and fun for children during school holidays, with utmost flexibility granted over the actual delivery methods used. The voluntary sector should be in the driving seat wherever possible. (pg 7)

The report recommended that the Government allocate £41.5 million to provide these services.

Support for the Bill

The Bill has received cross-party support, which has been picked up in the press.  See for example:

Further background

The Library briefing School meals and nutritional standards (England), SN 04195, provides information on school meals, including free school meal eligibility.

Related posts