The Freedom Association is pleased to announce that Lord Stoddart of Swindon is this week’s ‘Parliamentarian of the Week.’

On 16 June, Lord Stoddart asked the following parliamentary question:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what powers teachers in the state sector have to inspect children’s lunch boxes and to confiscate items that they deem unsuitable.”

He received the following reply from Lord Nash, an education minister:

“Governing bodies are responsible for their school meals service including their packed lunch policies and whether to ban certain products to promote healthy eating. If schools wish to adopt such policies, we strongly recommend that they consult parents first and ensure that any adopted policy is clearly communicated to parents and pupils.

“Schools have common law powers to search pupils, with their consent, for items. There is nothing to prevent schools from having a policy of inspecting lunch boxes for food items that are prohibited under their school food policies. A member of staff may confiscate, keep or destroy such items found as a result of the search if it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances. It would be good practice for the pupil to be present during an inspection and for a second member of staff to be present if any items are to be confiscated. 

“If authorities and schools are concerned about their legal position, they should seek their own legal advice.”

I wrote an article for Conservative Home yesterday criticising the policy, and Lord Stoddart has also criticised the Government’s policy in the following statement:

“This is the nanny state writ large and I find it incomprehensible that a Conservative Government has given powers to teachers that totally undermine the authority of parents. I would also like to know what qualifications teachers have to determine what is healthy for pupils to eat and what is not? They don’t even seem to be under an obligation to inform parents that items have been confiscated.

“In view of some of the heavily sugared and unhealthy dishes served in some schools, this strikes me as the height of hypocrisy. Unless schools keep detailed health records for all of their pupils, how can teachers be certain that they are not confiscating items that are important for the wellbeing of their pupils? This is a dramatic expansion of the powers of teachers that has not been properly thought through and smacks of the dead hand of political correctness. It demonstrates that the Conservative Party is just as guilty of control freakery as any other party and that they don’t support parents and families, as they so often claim.”

Lord Stoddart has been defending our rights against the nanny state for many decades, and it is incomprehensible that a Conservative Government is acting in this way. This policy must be reversed for all the reasons Lord Stoddart has stated. It is the responsibility of parents to feed their children, and it is not the responsibility of teachers to rummage through children’s lunch boxes, arbitrarily deciding what is healthy and confiscating what they feel is not.

I offer Lord Stoddart of Swindon my congratulations as this week’s worthy recipient of our ‘Parliamentarian of the Week’ award.