Archer campaigns for return of school milk

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 25 years after Margaret Thatcher earned the title "Milk Snatcher" by removing schoolchildren's daily allocation, Jeffrey Archer has vowed to reverse his erstwhile leader's infamous move.

As part of his campaign to become mayor of London, Lord Archer of Weston- super-Mare is planning to give every primary school pupil in the capital a bottle of milk and an energy bar every day. The pounds 200m scheme, which may be subsidised by Kellogg's and three supermarket chains, will be unveiled next month, The Independent has learnt. The plan was drawn up by the millionaire novelist in response to research in New York that he says showed a daily milk ration reduced juvenile crime by a third.

When she was secretary of state for education in the Heath government of the early 1970s, Mrs Thatcher's decision to abolish free milk in primary schools ensured that playgrounds across the land rejoiced in the refrain "Thatcher, Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher". The former deputy chairman of the Tory party remains one of her biggest fans, but has decided that London pupils should receive milk and cereal bars to prevent lethargy in class and trouble on the streets.

At the moment, only under-fives and children whose parents are on income support are entitled to free school milk.

Stephanie Spiers, of the charity Milk for Schools, welcomed the idea as a way of helping the thousands of children who left home without breakfast. "By 11am they are either totally lethargic or likely to go the other way and become disruptive. Teachers cannot teach children who are hungry," she said.

Jon Thomas, managing director of Cool Milk at School, a private firm that supplies some schools, said the idea should be treated seriously. "The public feel very strongly about this issue. It is hard to handle children who are disruptive."