HC Deb 16 April 1913 vol 51 cc1970-1

4.0 P.M.


I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Education (Provision of Meals) Act, 1906."

This is the third year in succession in which this Bill has been introduced and I trust earnestly that on this, the third time, it will find its way to the Statute Book. It is a very simple Bill consisting of but one operative Clause. Its purpose is to make good an omission in the Provision of Meals Act, 1906. The omission to which I refer is the failure to allow education authorities to provide meals on days on which the schools are not open, during holidays and on Sundays. The need for remedying this omission has been proved beyond any possibility of doubt. I hold in my hand a small chart, which I have before exhibited, and which shows clearly the result of stopping school meals during holidays on a certain number of children who were specially watched and weighed for the purpose of ascertaining the consequences of their having been deprived of those meals. The result, as shown in this chart, I will explain by giving just one instance. I have not the exact number, but I think there were fifty-six controlled children who, during the four weeks before Whitsuntide, when the tests were made, gained on an average, while school meals were being provided for them, 1 lb. 12 oz. each. When the Whitsuntide holidays came round, the school feeding was stopped for eleven days, and during those eleven days the average loss of weight was 1 lb. 1½ oz. each. I think that demonstrates clearly what happens during the school holidays, when children ought to be happier, and when there is certainly no less reason for their being properly fed than at any other time. The enormous difference that this must make throughout the country will be realised when I mention that in London alone the average weekly number of children fed in the year 1909 was 41,672. The whole number of 42,000 children will suffer during the coming Whitsuntide holidays through lack of the school meals which they have been in the habit of getting if this Bill is not passed, and during the summer holidays they will suffer for a more extended period. This is an entirely non-party measure. The names on the back of the Bill are drawn from all sections of the House of Commons. The Government are favourable to it—the Prime Minister has stated that over and over again—and there is an overwhelming feeling in the House in favour of it. There are only two or three Members, so far as I can judge, who block this Bill. I think I am not doing any injustice to the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) in saying that he is one of them. I hope and trust that he and others will now at last let the Bill go through. We all know that the hon. Baronet has a tender place in his heart, because he is so great a friend of dumb animals, especially dogs, and I trust that he will extend his kindness and tender feeling to children—those children who will go unfed if the Bill is not passed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Jowett, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, Mr. George Roberts, Mr. Percy Alden, Mr. Waldorf Astor, Mr. Charles Bathurst, Mr. William Redmond, Mr. Chiozza Money, Mr. Mark Sykes, and Sir James Yoxall. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Wednesday next, and to be printed. [Bill 109.]