Newspaper review: Free school meal plan assessed


The news that all infant pupils in England are to be offered a free school meal features prominently on the front pages. There is agreement that the scheme is part of a coalition trade-off which will see the Tories announcing a tax break for married couples.

According to the Guardian, there was a direct deal between David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

The Daily Telegraph sees the move as an admission by ministers that more must be done to ensure households feel better off, after years in which prices have risen faster than incomes.

Meanwhile, the Independent calls it the "Coalition's Family Day".

In the Daily Mirror, the scheme is described as heartening, but the paper also notes it's time the coalition gave something back after taking so much from hard-pressed families.

The Daily Mail questions the cost of the scheme, asking how austerity Britain can afford Mr Clegg's £600m "giveaway".

And the Sun wonders what happened to cutting back on unnecessary sending. It suggests that if there is money "floating around" it should be returned as a tax cut "to spend as we see fit".

'Plebgate' anniversary

In a front page report, the Independent says the co-author of a US study is warning that fracking for gas and oil poses a significant risk to livestock.

In its main front page story, the Financial Times reports that strong demand for housing in London has pushed English property prices beyond their peak at the height of the economic boom.

Almost exactly a year after the so-called Plebgate affair, the Times gives prominent coverage to what it calls a savage attack on the Metropolitan Police by a former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald.

He is angry about the time it is taking to investigate the confrontation in Downing Street between police officers and the then Conservative cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell.

Staying with the same story, the Independent says the suggestion that serving officers lied, falsified records and conspired to smear a minister has implications far beyond the case itself.

'Barmy response'

A report in the Daily Mail suggests a chemical used in hundreds of cosmetics is being blamed for a massive rise in dangerous allergic reactions.

The paper says two firms are removing the substance - a preservative known as MI - from some products and other companies are under pressure to take similar action.

The Times looks at claims that patients are being put at risk because hundreds of hospital wards do not have enough nurses to look after them properly.

The paper says its research showed 43% of wards have a staffing level lower than the benchmark of one nurse for eight patients.

The Daily Telegraph carries an interview with naturalist Sir David Attenborough in which he says the world is heading for disaster unless there's action on population control.

Sir David says famine in Ethiopia is a question of too many people on too little land and attempting to solve the problem simply by sending bags of flour is "barmy".

Amazing feat

There are many pictures showing the raising of the cruise ship Costa Concordia from rocks off Tuscany.

The Guardian, which carries a picture of the raised ship across the entire top of its front page, calls it the most expensive salvage operation in history.

The Times says that faced with a mess on the scale of this shipwreck, a strong human instinct is to despair and leave the problem to someone else.

But the buck stopped with the engineer in charge, Nick Sloane, with the Daily Mirror describing the operation he led as an amazing feat of maritime engineering and a reminder that however unlikely, every crisis presents an opportunity.

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