'No such thing as a free lunch': Susan Hall and Sadiq Khan clash over free school meals at LBC Mayoral debate

23 April 2024, 17:38 | Updated: 23 April 2024, 18:50

Tom is bemused at Susan Hall's assertion she has 'always supported' free school meals

By Emma Soteriou

Susan Hall and Sadiq Khan have clashed over free school meals during LBC's Mayoral debate.

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Conservative Mayoral candidate Susan Hall claimed to have committed to extending free school meals before Mr Khan, who is once again running for Labour.

She said she would continue with the scheme for another year.

But the pair quickly clashed when Mr Khan quoted her as saying "there is no such thing as free school meals" just days earlier.

"Last week, I promised to extend free school meals permanently in primary schools if I'm elected... and the Tory candidate said the phrase 'there is no such thing as a free lunch'," he said.

"My promise, if I'm re-elected, is to ensure as long as I'm there that every child that goes to a state primary school receives a nutritious, free meal."

He claimed there has been better attendance, attentiveness and productivity as a result.

But Ms Hall hit back saying: "I've said all along I would continue the policy.

"I think I actually said 'there's no such thing as a free meal' - that's accurate - but I've said all along I would continue the policy. I agreed to it before Sadiq Khan did.

"Sadiq Khan was trying to get the government to pay for it."

Read more: Conservative candidate Susan Hall unveils manifesto as she pledges to scrap Ulez expansion on day one as Mayor

Read more: Sadiq Khan pledges four more years of free primary school meals for children if re-elected as Mayor

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Free school meals for all primary school children in London is Mr Khan’s key pledge in his 2024 mayoral manifesto as he seeks a third term in office.

The free school meals policy was introduced from last September as a one-year emergency measure to help struggling London families in the cost of living crisis.

But Ms Hall has previously questioned whether it is right for "Londoners on the breadline" to be contributing via their council tax to feed "children of millionaires".

"If it’s targeted, you can give people more nutritious meals," she said.

"People are telling me the quality of these meals aren’t good and they’re sending their kids in with a packed lunch.

"That money could be targeted at the kids who really need that, far better than a blanket [scheme] for everybody."

Meanwhile the Lib Dem's Rob Blackie said: "The Liberal Democrats brought in free school meals for primary school children so we are very pleased that the mayor has decided to extend it.

"Of course, we support it because it's very important that kids get that proper meal and that people who are just above the free school lunch line get more food."

Zoe Garbett, the Green party's mayoral candidate, said: "I really support universal free school meals for primary school children and I would extend that to secondary school children.

"My manifesto is full of ideas for how we make this city more affordable."