§ As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I notice that the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) has on the Paper a Motion that the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House in respect of various Amendments, but I do not think that I can allow that Motion to be moved. If there was to be an Instruction the proper time for it to have been moved would have been immediately after the Second Reading. It is true that the Second Reading was taken at Eleven o'clock, but, if the hon. and gallant Member had any objection to make, he should have made it at that time.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
My hon. Friend whose name you have called is not in his place to move the Amendment which stands in his name—in page 1, line 23, to leave out from the first word "milk" to the end of the Clause. I think my hon. Friend must have been delayed. May I move the Amendment on his behalf?
§ Major ELLIOT
I am not in any way wishing to challenge your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but the point as to "certified milk" is a point of real importance, and I think it might reasonably be taken at this stage, as otherwise the operation of the Bill will be hampered. The term "certified milk" is simply a term of art which applies to all milk to be 704 supplied, all the way from the farm to the school in certain small bottles. Grade A (T.T.) milk—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Aberdeen and. Kincardine (Mr. R. W. Smith) was not in his place when I called upon him to move the Amendment standing in his name. He is now in his place, and I will call him again.
§ Major ELLIOT
On that point of Order. With the greatest respect, as this is my Bill, when you said "Third Reading" I rose at once to ask whether it was not possible to take my Amendment. I did not call "Now," and I did not understand that the discussion had reached the Third Reading. I and another hon. Member rose at once to ask whether Amendments might be moved.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I called on the hon. Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. R. W. Smith) and he was not in his place to move the Amendment that stood in his name. I did not select the other Amendment referred to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Major ELLIOT
The Bill is a Bill which we have not previously had an opportunity of debating on the Floor of the House. It has been debated in the Scottish Standing Committee, but, of course, it is impossible for us to claim that it has had the examination which it is right that the House should concentrate upon a Measure which is of considerable importance both in educational and agricultural circles. I am greatly indebted to the House for allowing the Bill to pass 705 the Second Reading sub silentio. It was thereafter examined by the Standing Committee, and I think I may say that on the whole it received favourable consideration. When the Bill was introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule I was able to make a very short explanation of the experiments which had led up to it and the purpose for which the Bill was introduced, but the Bill not having then been printed it was not in order to go into the matter at any length.
I have received some criticism from hon. Friends both on this side and the Government side of the House for having called the Bill an "Education Bill," whereas it is, they say, more a matter of public health. I wish to contest that point. I think that it is truly an Education Bill. The experiments from which the Bill arose were experiments conducted with a view to obtaining the maximum possible use of the costly and elaborate educational plant which this country has set up and which has now been in operation for many years for the education of our children. The essence of the functioning of all plant is that it should function upon suitable material. In Scotland, we have previously attached rather much importance to the training of the mind, and not enough, perhaps, to the training of the body. Those of us who have received any form of biological training perhaps go to the other extreme and rather over-emphasise the desirability of a sound body, if the sound mind is to function at all. However that may be, I think we shall have no difficulty in showing that the care which we have given to mental activity has altogether outstripped the care which we have given to physical activity.
The Bill proposes to enable education authorities in Scotland to incur expenditure in supplying milk to the children attending the schools within their areas. The health of the school population of Scotland and more particularly the fitness of the school population of Scotland, can best be examined by taking note of the review of the matter published in the annual reports of the Departments of Health and Education for Scotland. These two Departments make their report to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who by a singularly fortunate administrative arrangement, is the head of the Health Department, the Education Department and the Department of Agriculture 706 in Scotland, all three of which are deeply concerned in the subject matter of this Bill. It is only within recent years that more than a mere paragraph in the health report has been devoted to the physical condition of the children of Scotland—almost literally the flower of the race, and the growing point of the race.
We have recently been passing pensions Measures of one kind and another for the older people of the country. We have undertaken enormous liabilities to see that the older generation should have a decent, respectable, and, as far as that may be, a comfortable old age; but all these things depend on the work, the activity, the energy, the intelligence of the younger generation and I think it is not too much to ask that Parliament, having given so much attention to age, should now devote a certain amount of attention to youth. It is by youth alone that those enormous burdens to which I have referred will be borne when the cheques which we have drawn on the future come to be presented for payment.
What is the state or foundation of our nation, as regards the physical condition of the children? In the annual report of the Department of Health, on page 78, we find a, review of the medical inspection of the raw material of Scotland, the material upon which the functioning of the education system, and then of the social and economic system depend. What is the extent of the inspection which is there reviewed? We learn that the average time occupied in the examination of each child was 7½ minutes. That was the time spent on the survey of the physical fitness of each child out of the whole school year. Within that school year we are informed only one-third of the school population underwent systematic medical inspection, and, accordingly, we may take it that the 7½ minutes inspection has to do the child, not for one year or two years, but for three years. Thus only 7½ minutes out of three school years, is devoted to the examination of the physical fitness of the child upon which the whole of the elaborate superstructure of education has to be built.
I do not think that any of us can consider that state of affairs entirely satisfactory, and it was one of the things which weighed with me, and with my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Scotland, in desiring that education 707 should be merged in one general authority responsible for health, for education, for open spaces—that there should be one general authority responsible for the school population of Scotland and that the same authority should deal with the health of the population of the locality as a whole. Even the extremely cursory examination which I have mentioned revealed some figures which the House ought to know. On page 79 of the Report is recounted a somewhat melancholy tale showing that 2.4 per cent. of the children examined were found to be suffering from anaemia, and 2.5 per cent. from tuberculosis in one form or another.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. and gallant Member to pursue this line on the Third Reading? Is it not the case that on the Third Reading of a Bill, discussion is confined strictly to the subject matter of the Bill? May I also urge my protest against the time of the House being wasted in this manner on a Bill which is now approved by all sections in the House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think that the hon. and gallant Member is going beyond what is in the Bill. It is quite a simple Bill.
§ Major ELLIOT
With complete respect, Sir, I hope to show that what I have been saying does not go beyond the Bill. If it were not for the state of affairs disclosed by these figures, I should not have thought of introducing the Bill, nor, I think, would the Bill have received the support which it has received, not only within but without this House. I have been subject to a good deal of criticism for introducing this Bill. One of the big newspapers in my own city of Glasgow, the "Glasgow Evening Citizen," has, quite legitimately but repeatedly, criticised the proposal on the ground that it exposes the citizens of Glasgow to undue expense. Unless I am enabled to show that it is not in fact an expenditure but a saving of money, the major purpose which I had in the Bill, namely, that it should be adopted by the local authorities, will not be secured. Some of my hon. Friends behind me took an active part in opposition to the Bill during the Committee stage, and unless it can be clearly proved that the Bill is not 708 merely a social and humanitarian Measure, but that it is actually an advantage to the finances of the country, they may feel themselves justified, in the present financial stringency, in opposing the Bill. I hope to be able to dissipate that fear, but I can only do so by giving figures relating to the health of the school children of Scotland, a subject which, I submit, is germane to the discussion of a Bill of this kind.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
As a matter of fact, all this would have been appropriate at an earlier stage before the principle of the Bill had been approved. The House has approved of the principle, and in the Third Reading Debate we are strictly confined to what is in the Bill itself.
§ Major ELLIOT
I bow to your Ruling, and I shall not further pursue the actual figures, but we seldom enough get an opportunity to discuss the physical health of the children of this country, and I should have wished to go into some of the details. However, I will point out that 22 per cent. of these children were suffering from defective glands, and I am sure that hon. Members interested in school health will see that, unless I can show that what is in this Bill will alter that condition, it would not be justifiable to bring the Bill forward.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member is proceeding on a wrong premise. He does not require a justification for bringing forward the Bill on this occasion. This is the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
On the point of Order. If an hon. Member has been called to order by you, Sir, on three occasions within ten minutes, is he allowed further to discuss the Bill?
§ Major ELLIOT
Coming very strictly and narrowly to what is actually within the Bill, the Bill seeks, granting these premises, to deal with them by enabling local authorities to incur expenditure in supplying milk to children attending schools within their area. The Bill which received a Second Reading differed from the Bill which we are now asked to read the Third time, because of a change introduced in Committee, which it is necessary 709 for me to explain to the House. The Bill, as introduced, made no provision with regard to the quality of the milk to be provided, and the Committee, after a good deal of debate, which lasted all the morning, decided to make a change in that respect, and inserted a proviso that the milk to be supplied should be certified milk, or, failing that, milk of the best grade available in the area. It is undoubted that that may lead to certain difficulties and to a certain increase of expense to the local authorities which are purchasing this milk, but the proviso raises the whole question of whether milk of a certain degree of infection is so bad that it should not be supplied at all, or whether the milk to be supplied must be milk from tuberculin-tested cattle.
I plead strongly for the passage of the Bill even with this proviso inserted. The whole question of tuberculous herds and the possible transmission of tuberculosis to the children of the country through drinking milk is one which is a subject of considerable controversy at present. Bovine tuberculosis is understood to cause the death of about 3,000 children per annum in this country, and the difficulties with regard to bovine tuberculosis among our herds have undoubtedly caused an actual reluctance on the part of doctors to prescribe and on the part of the population to consume milk, which is, in spite of all those difficulties, the finest food and the only food which has been specially worked out by nature for growing animals, either the young of cows or the young of the human race.
The difficulty is this, that there is, relatively speaking, a small number of herds where certified or even Grade A tuberculin-tested milk can be supplied. I think there are not more than about 100 such herds in the whole of Scotland, and it gave us a good deal of difficulty as to whether we should or should not accept this Amendment. I find there are 101 herds in Scotland licensed for the sale of tuberculin-free milk. The total number of milk cows in Scotland is over 450,000, and therefore—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This is again going far beyond the confines of the Bill, and if the hon. and gallant Member does not keep within the Rules of Order, I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I submit that the hon. and gallant Member, in the circumstances, is almost abusing the privileges of the House.
§ Major ELLIOT
I find myself in some difficulty. The right hon. and learned Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) apparently knows more about who is going to oppose this Bill than I do. It is to the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. R. W. Smith) that I am directing my arguments, rather than to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends below the gangway, and I would assure them that it is desirable to disarm the opposition in advance.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is not a question of where there is opposition. The opposition does not justify going beyond the Rules of Order.
§ Major ELLIOT
I shall pass from the proviso which was imported, in which this Bill differs from the Bill as passed on Second Reading, only to say that I think, in spite of that, it would be well to give the Third Reading to the Bill. The main question as to whether the supply of milk to school children is reasonable and whether it is desirable to allow local authorities to incur the responsibility of supplying that milk rests not merely on the general discussions which we have had, but on the particular arguments which have been brought out in the passage of the Measure through the House.
The main argument, of course, is very simple and very short. It is that the Measures which have previously been brought forward, with regard to the provision of meals and so on, hinge on the question of necessitous children, but in this Bill there is no proposal to differentiate between necessitous and non-necessitous children, for the reason that the experiments have shown that the average child in Scotland suffers from a shortage of certain vital constituents, which would not entitle a local authority to put it down as a child that was necessitous and that ought to be supplied with meals or food as such. We are bringing forward a Bill dealing with 711 milk, which in this way is half-way between a drug and a book. It is a Bill without which it, is impossible for the child to take full advantage of the feeding stuffs with which it is supplied at home, and the local authorities in their experiments have shown clearly that the necessity—[Interruption.] It is desirable to discuss one's procedure—
§ Major ELLIOT
I cannot conceive anything more closely connected with the Bill than the argument I am now adducing. The local authorities of Scotland have dealt with this matter by themselves, or at any rate the education authority of Glasgow petitioned to be allowed to adopt a modified scheme in accordance with the provisions of this Bill, and I am in hopes that the Bill will commend itself to the municipality of Glasgow and the other great authorities which were brought into existence on the 15th May last. We do not know how this will appeal to them. I do not think that there is any doubt that if we can persuade local authorities to adopt this Bill, the health of the school children of Scotland will be improved without extra expenditure. Furthermore, the great industry of agriculture will be helped by finding an outlet for the surplus milk, which surplus milk, unless consumed in the school or in some other way, will form a glut on the market, and mean an added difficulty. I would merely say, in a word, that the industry of agriculture gives occupation to 300,000 people in dairying, or as many as the motor and shipbuilding trades put together.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
rose in, his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Johnston)
Very briefly, I will indicate the attitude of the Government towards this Bill, which has been introduced by the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and his friends. It has passed through Committee upstairs with the approval, except for some small points of detail, of everyone. Its object, as far as I know, is desired by all the large education authorities in Scotland, and Glasgow 712 already has, in preparation for this Measure, intimated that its scheme is ready, and has passed a resolution, I believe unitedly, authorising a committee to proceed when this Bill is passed. It is an optional Bill. Any education authority "may" operate under it. Previous experiments have shown the urgent necessity, on physical grounds, for such a Bill as this. The experiments by Dr. Leighton and Dr. Orr, in 1927 and 1928, which were subsequently published by the Department, has shown that children who get a regular glass of milk at school have grown better than children sitting beside them who did not get that ration, and have increased in weight from three-quarters of a lb. to a lb. The non-attendance at school where this milk ration has been given, diminished to practically nothing, and on every ground, financial, educational, physical, we very earnestly desire that the House will give the Third Reading to this Bill, that it will be delayed in no part of the administrative machinery of the country, and that local authorities, who are urgently desiring that this Bill should go through, should have the powers at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
First of all, may I apologise to the House for not being here to move the Amendment in my name, but there was a very exceptional block in Buckingham Palace Road, and that prevented me from being here in time. There was a point I wished to raise on my Amendment, but, unfortunately, I cannot do that now. It has been said that there is no objection to this Bill, and that everybody is absolutely in favour of it, but I think that my hon. and gentleman Friend the late Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was rather hardly treated in not being allowed to deal with the points which he knew I was going to raise.
I was not critising your ruling, but was pointing out that there were grounds for taking the line he wished to take. I apologise for appearing to criticise your ruling, and I hope that you will accept my apology.
713 First of all, may I say that on the face of it, this is not an Education Bill. That is my first criticism, and the reason why I think the House should not grant it the Third Reading. If we are to have a Bill dealing with the question of the health of the people, it seems to me that that Bill should be a health Bill and not an Education Bill, and the very fact that it is under the Department of Health's report that we find all this talk about school children, shows quite clearly that it should be not an Education Bill but a health Bill. There is no one in this House more anxious to see the health of our children improved, but I have grave doubts if that result will be obtained by this Bill.
In Committee I put down various Amendments to this Bill. It was said by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that there was no opposition to the Bill, and that the Committee were absolutely unanimous. All I can say is that he does not seem to remember what happened in Committee, because there were quite a number of his own party who supported me in the Amendments which I put down. I certainly cannot say that that shows a very unanimous opinion on this Bill. What does the Bill do? It empowers public authorities to spend the money of the country in supplying milk to school children. I fail to see why the public authorities should be given this power at the present time. There is difficulty enough now in carrying on. This is merely placing a further burden on the shoulders of the local authorities. There are some details with which I will deal later on with regard to this point, but it does seem to me that it is going to be a burden upon the taxpayers of this country.
Of course, I know it is said that the children will greatly benefit by the supply of milk, and that in other ways we shall save money, but I very much doubt if that will be the case. This power is quite unnecessary for education authorities. They have plenty of power at the present time. As has been already stated, under the Education Acts in Scotland, if it can be shown that, owing to the physical health of the child, or whether it is so clothed, or is otherwise unable to benefit by the education which is given in our public schools, the education authority has power at the present 714 time to make up what the child lacks. With these powers at the present time, it is unnecessary to have this Bill, because if it can be shown that the children lack anything, the education authorities now can supply what the children want. That is one of the strong reasons why I oppose this Bill.
I would like to refer to a remark which was made by the late Under-Secretary that many of the children suffer from a shortage of certain vital constituents. It is probably true that certain children will benefit by an increased ration of milk, and I agree that in experiments in the feeding of children on milk there have been great improvements. In the cases of those examined in the experiments, however, all the milk was certified milk, or at least Grade A milk. I may be wrong, but in the majority of cases it was milk of Grade A quality.
§ Major ELLIOT
It was milk of the best quality available in the area, and in some cases it was pasteurised milk, but it was not in every case certified milk. In the tests which are at present being carried out by the Under-Secretary, Grade A, T.T. milk is being used, but in some cases, I believe, it is in addition pasteurised.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The present experiments in Lanarkshire are being conducted with pasteurised and T.T. milk, half supplies of each.
§ Mr. MATHERS
On a point of Order. As these points were carefully gone into when the Bill was in Committee, is it in order for hon. Members to re-argue them?
I am sorry that I made a mistake about certified milk, but, as has been admitted by the late Under-Secretary, the milk that has been used in these tests has all been of a certain high grade. It has either been pasteurised Grade A or Grade A, T.T. milk. It is not the ordinary milk as supplied in the dairies without any special grade marking on it. These children may have benefited by the milk, but other tests have been made with regard to the conditions under which children are educated, and it has been found that 715 children educated in schools where there is a larger amount of sunlight or in open air schools have improved. Therefore, if we are to have a Bill covering the question of milk as affecting the health of children, we ought to have a Bill dealing with drugs, medicines or foods which children need. This Bill merely supplies the children with one article which certain children require, and which they like. One of the Members below the Gangway in the Committee moved an Amendment to allow parents in certain cases to receive exemption for their children from receiving milk. That was done because to certain children milk is a poison. If that be so, it shows that milk is not of necessity the right thing to give every child.
There is a complaint from which children suffer called acidosia, which may ruin a child's life, and in such cases milk is the very worst thing possible to give. It has been found that these children require glucose. If we are going to say that it is the duty of the State to supply the child with any substance which may benefit it, we have no right to say that only the children who require milk shall be supplied at the expense of the State. Why should the unfortunate children who require glucose, or any other substance which they like, not get it at the expense of the State? [Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brawn), who has kindly brought in a glass of milk, was not here when I was speaking. Acidosia is one of the things which I have had, and I cannot take milk.
I was coming to the claim that the supply of this milk would be a great benefit to the agricultural community. I admit that it would be an excellent thing, but it is not our duty to try and help the agricultural community at the expense of the ratepayers through this Bill. On the question of quality, I am sorry that I was not here to move my Amendment. The Bill says:Provided that the milk to be supplied under any such scheme shall be certified milk, or failing that milk, milk of the best grade available in the area.It has been admitted that milk which has any tubercular germs is a cause of 716 untold suffering among children. Many people seem to imagine that milk can be given at any time, but I understand that the danger of a grown-up person getting tuberculosis from milk is much less than the danger to the child. Certain Members in this House have said that they have benefited from milk, but they are grown-up persons, and the danger in their case is nothing like the danger which there is in the case of children. I would like to draw the attention of the House to these observations made during the Committee stage. The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Dickson) said:I have had experience on a local authority and I know the stupendous cost which falls upon local authorities, presumably because of children being fed in their very early years on milk which is not free from tuberculosis."—[STANDING COMMITTEE, 18th February, 1930; col. 5.]The hon. Member for Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart) said:Bad milk is the cause of a tremendous amount of pain and suffering and the permanent crippling of thousands of children in our country."—[STANDING COMMITTEE, 18th February, 1930; col. 8.]Then the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said:We have 2,000 or 3,000 surgical tuberculosis cases, bovine tuberculosis cases, entering our hospitals every year which are directly traceable to the poisoned milk supply."—[STANDING COMMITTEE, 18th February, 1930; col. 10.]I am sorry that I was not here to move my Amendment, because, as the Bill stands now, authorities, if they cannot obtain pasteurised or certified milk, may supply the best milk obtainable in the district. It is admitted that in a very large number of districts in Scotland it will be impossible to get a large enough supply of even pasteurised milk, and it seems to me to be a very serious thing to say that they may supply children with milk which will probably contain tuberculous germs, because that will mean putting into our hospitals thousands of cases of tuberculosis.
§ Major ELLIOT
I would point out that the scheme has to be approved by the Scottish Education Department and the Department of Health in Scotland, and I should have hoped that would satisfy the hon. Member that it will obviate the danger of the children getting actively infected milk.
My point is that it has been definitely stated that the Bill could not be worked in many areas if the authorities were required to supply only certified or pasteurised milk. In those areas they will supply instead the best grade of milk possible, and my point is that there is no guarantee that it will be free from tuberculous germs. I submit that I am entitled to refer to what the Under-Secretary has said as showing that that will be possible.
§ 12 n.
But I have not referred to the Department of Health. The Department of Health is ruled over by the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary, and the argument has been put forward that as the Department of Health must approve the schemes there will be a safeguard. I wish to point out that there will be no safeguard at all, because those who rule the Department of Health say it would be impossible to work the Bill in many areas if certified or pasteurised milk has to be supplied, and that probably means that in certain cases permission will be given for non-certified milk to be provided. But if I am not allowed to refer to that I will not go any further with that point. I really regard this as a very serious matter. I am most anxious to see the health of our children improved, but I would remind the House that this Bill has been advocated for other reasons than improving the health of the children. It has been said that it will be of assistance to milk producers by increasing the demand for milk, and therefore the Department of Agriculture may be interested in it from another angle than that from which it is viewed by the Department of Health. If this Bill is passed we shall be putting on the Statute Book a Measure which really may be very detrimental to the health of a great many children in Scotland.
718 Lastly, I fail to see why it should not be made compulsory for parents who are in a position to pay for the milk given to their children to do so. All the Bill says is that the authority "may" recover the cost of the milk from the parents in such cases. If parents are not able to supply the requisite milk for their children I am quite willing that it should be supplied at the public expense, but where parents can pay I do not see why the cost should fall on the State. Tax payers as well as rate payers will be called upon to bear part of the burden, and I do not see why tax payers should be called upon to defray this charge in cases where they themselves will certainly not benefit. In the county areas most of the children get an adequate supply of milk. It is more in the interests of the town children that the Bill has been introduced, and I think it is ridiculous to have a Bill which will benefit one section of the community at the expense of another. Finally, may I say that my principal reason for objecting to the Bill is the danger of the supply of milk which is not germ free to children at an age when such milk may have the most serious effects upon their health.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am deeply reluctant to disagree with any of the hon. Members who support the Bill, and fortunately I can agree with many of its principles, but I do not propose to discuss the question of principle and shall deal with the actual details of the Bill. I am sorry to see that my hon. Friend who moved the Bill has left the House, because I want to express my wonder that he should be responsible for such a muddle-headed Measure, but some of the other supporters of the Bill may be able to explain what they really mean by certain provisions in it.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
The backers of the Bill are Conservatives, and that may explain its muddle-headedness.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
There is always an exception to prove every rule. I object first to what has been put into the Bill at the beginning of Clause 1, where it is laid down thatIt shall be lawful for an education authority.719 And then it goes on to say:In accordance with a scheme approved by the Scottish Education Department and the Department of Health for Scotland.I do not understand why it is necessary for the education authority, under a scheme of this kind, to go through all the steps which are provided in the Bill before the scheme gets to the Scottish Education Department. I would like to know why it is necessary to have two schemes, one to go to the Scottish Education Department and another to the Department of Health. There may be some reason for putting forward this proposal, but I should have thought, in view of the fact that it is provided that these schemes have to be set up in a certain way, that it would have been sufficient for them to come before one authority, and I think that authority should be the Ministry of Health. Surely there is no need to send a scheme to two different Departments. Not only is there no need to do so, but there is a very definite danger in doing it, because it is conceivable that, at some period, the Department may take a different view, and you may get schemes bandied about from one authority to the other. The fact that the schemes have to go through two channels instead of one means that you have quite needless delay. I think those who are supporting this Bill ought to give more attention to the question as to whether it is necessary to have these two authorities. That is where the Bill is definitely wrong.
My next point is in regard to expenditure. It is laid down in this Measure that the expenditure which is going to be incurred shall fall partly upon the local authorities, and partly upon the taxpayers. I am aware that I should not be in order if I attempted to go into that matter in any detail, but, as a representative of the general taxpayer, I think I might be permitted to make a protest against inserting in a private Member's Bill any provision which places on the general taxpayer a burden which is solely in the interests of a small section of the community. Many of us feel that that is a very unfair proposal, and that it is not necessary, in a Measure of this kind, that you should impose a burden upon the general taxpayer for the benefit of a small section of the community, and that other 720 people should have to contribute towards the cost without having a chance in any way of sharing the benefit.
There is another point upon which I should like to have some information, and it is a point which seems to me to be rather important in connection with this Bill. Under the provisions of this Measure, it is apparent that the various areas will have to decide their own policy. It seems to me that in a matter of this kind we ought not to leave a matter of policy to be decided by the area itself, but that there should be some provision laying down that the Ministry itself should be the deciding authority. It is true that the Ministry have to give their approval, but what I object to is that, under this Bill, you leave the whole of the initiative to the area itself. I ask the Under-Secretary whether he does not think that it would be in the interest of Scotland as a whole to lay down the policy in these matters and provide for a proper scheme. I would like some member of the Government to reply to this very important point.
There is a further point which I think ought to be explained by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Third Reading of the Bill. I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member has returned to the House, and I will take this opportunity of asking him what is meant in the Bill by the words in Clause 1:and may contain provision for the recovery from the parents of the pupils so supplied of the cost thereby incurred.I understand that that is a provision to get back money which has been paid out of the local rates under certain conditions. I have been in the House for a considerable number of years, and I have noticed, from time to time, that there has been a series of questions put in the House upon this question of recovery. I have heard hon. Members say that this method of recovery can be used in such a way that it will bear very hardly on certain people in the community. I would like to know if I am right in assuming that, under the provisions of this Bill, a local authority can give to children a certain amount of milk, and that, when it has been consumed, the local authority can recover the cost from the parents, although the parents may not approve of the children having the milk. My hon. and learned Friend, the 721 Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), says that it is a matter of spilt milk. I could not possibly follow that remark into its details, but my hon. and learned Friend, after all, is the acknowledged milk authority in the House of Commons, and I would not like to be drawn into a dispute with him on the matter of milk.
I discover that apparently this Bill had no discussion on Second Reading, and, apparently, also, the discussions in Committee were limited. I want to know how this is going to bear on parents in very poor circumstances. The Bill goes on to deal with the case in which people are unable to pay by reason of their poverty, but I should be very averse from passing a Bill containing provisions of this kind unless I was absolutely certain that no hardship would be inflicted. I should like to help the supporters of the Bill in any way that is humanly possible, but there is one point upon which I would ask for information from them, and that is as to the exact principle on which the question of recovery on the ground of poverty is decided. That has no connection with the principle of the Bill, but we do want to know how there can be legal recovery. I think my hon. and gallant Friend agrees that we do not want any undue pressure in this respect.
I now come to the principal provision of the Bill, which deals with the supply of milk. I do not want to go into the question of tuberculin-tested milk, because that would tempt me to wander, and, therefore, I would rather keep to the question of the actual milk that is to be provided under the Bill. The variety of milk to be provided is not laid down in the Bill at all, except that it is to be certified milk. I do not object to the provision of certified milk. I think that possibly it can be defended with very great interest by some of my friends. I am not opposing the Bill because it contains the words "certified milk," but there is a point which is rather more doubtful. It says:or failing that milk, milk of the best grade available in the area.I think that before we pass the Bill we ought to know what is meant by the words "the best grade available." One of my hon. Friends says that it might be skimmed milk, and that, of course, is a possibility. Another says that it might 722 be buttermilk, and they will be able to discuss presently whether skimmed milk or buttermilk is the better. That is one of the points where, I think, hon. Members have been so extremely sloppy in their wording of the Bill. I think that this baby has been passed on to them by some queer party that does not, of course, belong to the enlightened Conservatives. I object to this provision because it is so wide and elastic and badly drafted that it will allow foreign milk as well. I cannot go into the matter of foreign milk, because it is not laid down in the Bill, but there is nothing to prevent a local authority from providing exclusively foreign milk of a dry, bad character—dried milk worked up.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I think that my hon. Friend will find, if he studies the Bill, that it cannot possibly be dried milk.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am pleased to hear that it is not dried milk. That has removed one apprehension from my mind, though I am not sure that dried milk and condensed milk really are excluded; I must have a legal authority before I can accept that and withdraw my opposition to the Bill. There are a number of other points to which I could refer, but, as I know that other Members are wishing to speak on the subject, I will content myself with saying that I am seconding the rejection of this Bill, not on account of any objection that I have to its principles, because we cannot discuss them, but because I fundamentally object to the way in which the Bill has actually appeared now before the House.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I do not want to delay the House, but I feel that some reply ought to be made to the hon. Member who has moved the rejection of this Bill, and also to the hon. Member who seconded it. I would like at the outset to enter a somewhat emphatic protest against my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who described those of us who are backing the Bill as "queer parties," as "sloppy," and has having nothing to do with what he is pleased to call enlightened Conservatives.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I said that I could not make out how they had got connected with this sloppy Bill, because I regard 723 them generally as Members of the enlightened Conservative party. My hon. Friend did not quite understand the phrase that I used.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
On a point of Order. I think I am within the recollection of the House in saying that the words of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) were that the backers of this Bill, namely, six Conservatives, were muddle-headed.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I entirely accept the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay. We listen to his observations on every subject in this House with great attention and interest—
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
—but I must say that I do not think he is entitled to criticise, in the detailed way that he did, the actual methods of administration in Scotland. If he knew anything about it, he would know perfectly well that no difficulty will be caused in the administration or operation of this Bill simply by reason of the fact that schemes have to be approved both by the Department of Education and by the Department of Health in Scotland. It was made perfectly clear during the Committee stage that it was desirable and necessary in the interest of health of the children that the Public Health Department should be entitled to some measure of control over the details of any scheme that may be put into operation. I do not think the fact that these two departments are both required to supervise the operation of the scheme will mitigate against the successful administration of the Bill. The speech of the hon. Member for Central Aberdeenshire (Mr. R. W. Smith) was nothing more than a cogent and powerful argument against the consumption of milk in this or any other country. If any of his arguments are even remotely correct, it means that, the sooner every cow in the country is killed, the better for the general health of the community. That would certainly have a serious detrimental effect upon his constituency and upon mine. Under the provisions of the Bill, more care will be taken about the standard of the milk supplied to children than can ever possibly be taken with regard to milk ordinarily supplied for 724 domestic household consumption. Greater pains are taken to ensure that the quality of milk that is to be supplied to these children is good than can ever be taken by the public health department with regard to the general supplies of the country. Therefore it follows that, if my hon. Friend's argument is so far correct, that it is highly dangerous to supply this certified good grade milk to the school children—
Mr. R. W. SMITH
I do not think I ever said it was bad for school children generally to be supplied with certified milk.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The whole of my hon. Friend's arguments were addressed to the very grave danger inherent in this scheme, and to the fact that it was likely to increase tuberculosis. All I am pointing out is that, if the supply of certified high grade milk under the supervision of the Department of Health to school children is likely to increase tuberculosis, how much more is the supply of ordinary milk to ordinary domestic consumers likely to increase it. In fact, as my hon. Friend knows very well, the consumption of milk is far too low. It is infinitely below the consumption in many other European countries. In my judgment, at any rate, it is the low consumption of milk in the great centres, like Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, that is more than anything else responsible for the high tuberculosis rates in those cities. A very interesting experiment was carried out at Peterhead along these very lines some months ago, and the improvement in the health of the school children that followed upon it was very remarkable.
We who have been backing the Bill regard it as a very beneficial measure of reform, which is likely to benefit not merely the school children but also the farming community and agriculture generally. I hope it will prove to be the beginning of a reform which can and ought to be carried to far greater lengths and that, before very long, perhaps when we have another Government in office, we shall see a scheme for making the consumption of milk by school children compulsory and carried through at the expense of the Education Authorities. I cannot conceive of any measure of constructive reform more likely to benefit the health of the children. It would pay for 725 itself over and over again in the long run by reducing the tuberculosis rate and it would also be of enormous benefit to the farming community and would tend to increase the consumption of milk, which is disgracefully low. I most earnestly hope the House will give the Measure a Third Reading.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Long ago we had compulsory education and children were compelled to go to school. It always seemed to me a very uncertain thing, because the child might not be well enough to appreciate education. Now we have a proposal which almost amounts to the compulsory supply of milk. I admit that I am a little shocked that it is not all certified milk. The figures quoted by the Under-Secretary showing the possibility of tuberculous milk finding its way into the milk supplied to children, makes me think the Government is taking a very heavy responsibility in that regard. The possibility that there may even be a few children—supposing it is only half a dozen—is a dreadful responsibility to take. I feel very sorry that the Bill does not insist on milk absolutely free from tuberculosis. It is said there would not be a sufficient supply but, even supposing there had not been, I am satisfied that in a very short time there would have been a sufficient supply, because the farmers would have had their cows tested and got rid of their tuberculous cows and hurried up to be in a position to give this mass production. I do not think that should have prevented those in charge of the Bill from providing that the milk was to be certified. Probably the big local authorities will insist that it is to be certified.
The population of Scotland was built up very largely for generations on milk and oatmeal. It is a pity that there is no provision for the supply with the milk of decent brose. Brose is a thing I always consume with my breakfast—not porridge, but brose, the raw meal, because that is the best possible antiseptic for the lactic acid in the milk. Dr. Murray, who then was Member for the Western Isles, told me that in his young days in Stornoway you would not see even people over 70 years of age with dental caries. That was because they ate raw oat cake along with the milk. It is a fibrous food and a tooth cleanser. I wish in time to come we could take this as a 726 step back to simpler food for children. The real reason for so much bad health is sophisticated and cooked food. They cannot even let the oatmeal alone. They make it into porridge and destroy the meal when it ought to be eaten raw. The natural accompaniment of milk is oatmeal.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I am only holding out the hope that the Under-Secretary will ultimately take into consideration the further development of the Bill. I will not pursue that as it appears to be out of order. Milk alone is apt to result in dental caries. I remember reading the evidence of a Scottish surgeon at a health inquiry, in which he said one of the reasons for there being more dental caries in Scotland than in England is that the Scotch children get milk for their meals, whereas the English children get beer. In all the public schools in England, even at Harrow and Westminster, the boys used to be supplied with beer before the war. It was much more sanitary than anything in the nature of tuberculous milk. I do not suggest, and I think the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland would probably take offence it I did, an Amendment of that kind being introduced by him.
So far from this proposal becoming a burden upon local rates, if children are going to be in a better condition of bodily health it will, in a sense, be an economy in the ultimate result. It is difficult for children when they leave their homes and go to school all day to be adequately fed. It may be that they may take something with them, but, if they are to be without sustenance from morning until well into the middle of the afternoon, the period is far too long. I believe that the giving of this sustenance, which, after all, will not be so very costly, will improve not only their physical health but their mental faculties and their capacity for appreciating the education which is being given to them. I am not tremendously impressed by the experiments which have been made. Although you may take one child which is fed upon milk and another child who receives no milk and find that at the end of a certain period the child fed upon milk is a quarter of an inch taller than the other child, you cannot tell whether 727 at the end of such period there would not have been the same result anyway. I should like to see the parents of the children. One set of parents might be of the type of Anak and the other born of the type of Zaccheus, small of stature. This is not a proper test, though one knows that milk is a very sound, good food if it, is free from impurities.
I cannot accept what my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) said, that there is an absolute exclusion of dried milk under the provisions of this Bill or of Ideal, Nestlés, Swiss or other milk. There is always the possibility of this sort of thing taking place although there would, no doubt, be an outcry against it if it did take place. It is a pity that the Bill is not more comprehensive and that there is no provision for home produced milk. Such a prevision would not have been contrary to the principles of Free Trade, to the mast of which the party opposite have nailed their standard. On the whole, I think the Bill is a sound Bill.
§ Mr. BARR
I have been congratulating myself as I have been sitting here to-day. I remember, in the School Board of Glasgow, which I entered in 1903, the long protracted struggles we had in trying to get anything of this kind for school children. It was declared that it would absolutely undermine the independence of the children and of their parents. In view of those struggles, in which, at first, we could only command two or three votes, to find that this Bill is supported by the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite and in fact by Conservatives generally, marks a great advance in progress in these matters, on which we on this side of the House can congratulate ourselves. That is all I desire to say on this Measure.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.