Does Conservative London mayoral candidate Susan Hall want to ‘cancel’ free school meals?

1 May 2024
What was claimed

Conservative London mayoral candidate Susan Hall wants to cancel free school meals.

Our verdict

Ms Hall has pledged to continue universal free school meals for primary school children in London for at least the next academic year, but has described the policy in her manifesto as a “temporary” measure to help with the cost of living.

Last week the Labour party in London shared a post on X (formerly Twitter) which said “universal free school meals will be on the ballot paper” and claimed Susan Hall AM—the Conservative candidate for London mayor—“wants to cancel free school meals”.

A similar claim is on a website set up by the London Labour Party at ‘’, which says Ms Hall “wants to cancel Sadiq’s free school meals initiative”.

These claims refer to City Hall’s current policy of funding free school meals for every primary school child in London state schools—an extension of the UK government’s provision of free school meals to disadvantaged state school pupils in England.

This policy was first announced by Mr Khan in February 2023 as a one-off measure for the 2023/24 academic year, and has since been extended to cover the 2024/25 academic year.

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What has Susan Hall said she’ll do?

Ms Hall has pledged to continue universal free school meals at least until the end of the next academic year (in other words, the summer of 2025).

In June 2023, she stated that she would continue the policy “for as long as the cost of living situation requires it”. The Conservative party has confirmed to Full Fact that this remains her position—her manifesto sets out that she would maintain what she describes as “temporary cost of living support measures”, and says that this would include the “universal free school meals programme, ensuring children have healthy, nutritious meals”.

For comparison, Mr Khan’s manifesto states that he will “work to make universal free school meals permanent for all state primary school children” if re-elected.

It would therefore appear that the key difference between the two candidates’ positions is that Ms Hall has referred to the policy as a “temporary” measure to help with the cost of living and hasn’t committed to making the provision of universal free school meals permanent, whereas Mr Khan has.

As we’ve written before, including about other claims in the London mayoral race, it’s impossible for us to say whether any politician will end up honouring a specific pledge—we often say we can’t fact check the future.

But it is important that politicians ensure claims made about their peers are presented using relevant context and caveats, to ensure the highest standards of honesty and accuracy in public debate are upheld.

Ms Hall has raised questions over universality

Mr Khan has cited comments made by Ms Hall at a recent campaign event as evidence she wants to “scrap” universal free school meals.

At a London Jewish Forum event on 11 April Ms Hall did appear to raise doubts about the policy, saying “millionaires’ children” might be among those benefiting.

A Labour spokesperson told Full Fact: “Sadiq has committed to make universal free school meals permanent. Susan has said she doesn't support the principle and will only pay for them until summer 2025, using money already dedicated to it by Sadiq in his budget this year which she voted against but which is already committed.”

The Conservative party told Full Fact that Ms Hall’s comments at the event were about “the principle that universal free school meals can be an inefficient way of allocating money to those most in need”, but that she had made clear she would be continuing the policy “until the cost of living situation improves”.

It’s also worth noting that while the Labour graphic talks about “free school meals”, the debate over this policy relates specifically to the provision of universal free school meals for primary school children.

If elected, Ms Hall could choose if and when to end universal provision in London, as this policy is currently funded by City Hall, but the provision of free school meals to disadvantaged pupils at primary and secondary state schools is UK government policy in England.

Honest campaigning practices

As noted above, one of the places we’ve seen this claim made is on this Labour campaign website. The website uses Susan Hall's name in its URL which could deceive voters, who might assume that it is affiliated to or sponsored by her campaign instead of the London Labour Party. 

We have approached the Labour party for comment on this and will update this fact check if we hear back.

Days out from an election, political parties should make their arguments openly and honestly—that means owning up to their campaign materials in immediately identifiable ways, not just in the small print. 

Full Fact has called on parties to commit to new rules on honest campaigning practices that will set higher standards for political debate and can help rebuild record-low trust in politics. You can support our campaign by signing up here

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