THE Assembly Government last night finally admitted it could not deliver on its promise of a free breakfast for every primary school child in Wales.
Yet Education Minister Jane Davidson maintained that Labour had never made the promise in the first place.
The Assembly Government has refused to release to the Western Mail details of legal advice given to it about the scheme, which was a key pledge by Labour in the 2003 Assembly elections.
But in a letter to us yesterday, a senior Cardiff Bay education official said, "It is the case that local education authorities and schools cannot be forced to provide breakfast free of charge under the current statutory framework, but that framework can be altered by an Act of Parliament.
"The Assembly has a major role in the preparation of Government Bills relating to education in Wales. The Assembly Government had the option of seeking Parliament's agreement to making participation compulsory by seeking provision in the Education Act 2005 which has just received Royal Assent. The Minister decided not to seek such provision because it was not needed to deliver the commitment made during the election 2003 campaign, which made clear that schools should have the option as to whether or not they participate."
Plaid Cymru's Shadow Education Minister Janet Ryder said, "It is blatantly obvious New Labour misled people in 2003 when they pledged that every child would have a free school breakfast. Their manifesto was ill thought through and uncosted. When it comes to their next Assembly manifesto, voters will know they cannot trust their policies.
"The Minister must be open and honest with these costs now."
The Welsh Conservatives' education spokesman William Graham said, "The best thing the Labour Party should do is to abandon this discredited gimmick. It was nothing more than a crude election bribe which is now unravelling before the government's eyes."