HC Deb 01 August 1935 vol 304 cc2964-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain A. Hope.]

8.26 p.m.


The matter that I desire to raise arises out of an answer to a question that I put some time ago and to questions put by the hon. Members for Wavertree (Mr. Cleary) and Platting (Mr. Chorlton). The Board of Education have recently altered the practice by which they gave free meals to school children. The old practice was that free meals were given to those children whose parents were below a certain level of income. The new practice is that only those children who show some evidence of subnormal nutrition are entitled to free meals, that is to say that free meals are now given only to those who are actually suffering from malnutrition, however slight. Coincidently with the Board of Education altering the basis upon which they gave free meals, the Unemployment Assistance Board have also altered the basis upon which they act in giving assistance to parents whose children are in receipt of free meals. The old public assistance committees and, until recently, the Unemployment Assistance Board, did not take into account the fact that the children were having free meals when they were deciding what allowance to give to parents. They now make a reduction of a shilling in the allowance given to parents in respect of every child receiving free meals except the first child, that is to say that, if there are three children in a family, for example, and they are receiving free meals owing to malnutrition, 2s. a week will be deducted from the amount coming into the homes of those poor people by the Unemployment Assistance Board, and nothing is deducted for the first child.

I should be very much obliged if the hon. and gallant Gentleman could explain why a parent with one child only getting free meals is to have nothing deducted while a parent with the burden of three or four children to keep has 2s. deducted. It is only a minor point, but it seems to me to show the haphazard nature of this cheeseparing. It does not really proceed upon any basis of principle. In the old days the Unemployment Assistance Board could have had some argument in logic, at any rate—it would not have been an argument that I should have commended, or one that would commend itself to the public, but they could have said, "We are charged with a certain duty. That duty is to provide a certain level of subsistence for the families that we have to relieve. If the Board of Education are shouldering a portion of our duty, by so much is our duty diminished and we shall give so much less." I do not think that argument would have done credit to their hearts, even if it might have had some substance from an intellectual standpoint. Fortunately, they never took that view, but they could have done it with some show of logic. Now, it seems to me, that the recent alteration in the practice of the Board of Education cuts even that argument from under their feet, because now the child only gets its free meals because it is suffering from malnutrition.

I am not going to stress the point of malnutrition. It might be very slight. Probably often it amounts to nothing more than that a child is delicate or pale or the teacher thinks it ought to have more. The last thing I wish is to be unfair to the Board of Education, which has been so sympathetically administered in the last four years, but that child needs extra nourishment. There is no getting away from that. The Board of Education gives nourishment because it thinks the child needs it, and the Unemployment Assistance Board says, "What the Board of Education has done we will undo by diminishing the slender resources coming into the homes of the parents." I know there may be various reasons. It might be that, however much food you gave it, the child would be naturally delicate. Another cause may be that the parents are not doing as they should for the child, and instead of spending the money on it they are spending it for some other purpose. I would not cast blame on these poor people, because so little is coming into the homes of most of them, and there is the old saying, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." But sometimes it may well be that the parents are not applying the money as they should. I will suppose that there are some cases where that is so, although my experience of the unemployed in industrial constituencies where I have been able to spend some time amongst them is that they are as good fathers and mothers on the whole and as devoted in their sacrifices for their children according to their means as the richest in the land.

But for the purposes of argument I will assume that there are cases where the malnutrition is due to parental maladministration of the assistance provided by the Board. Is this the right way even to tackle those cases? The Board of Education in such a case has supplemented the neglect of the parent. You now take away a shilling from the parent. If he has been a selfish parent before, will he not still be a selfish parent? You are not punishing the parent but the child. It is only going to have a shilling less spent on it than before, and to that extent the beneficent work of my hon. and gallant Friend's Department is going to be undone by the Unemployment Assistance Board. I should like to know why the Board is doing this. Is it necessary on grounds of economy? How much will it save? A very pertinent question was put on that point by the hon. Member for Wavertree, with whom I am glad to be associated in this matter, because, while we disagree in politics, we feel that we should enjoy our own holidays better if there was no danger of these children being neglected. I should like to know why the Board is doing this. Is it some senseless piece of officialdom or is it really effecting a large economy, or is it that only a few thousand pounds are being saved at the expense of 100,000 children? A shilling a week a child is only £50 for 1,000 children.

A great nation which can spend what we do on defence ought not to effect such cheeseparing measures at the expense of the children. Economy is a good principle. Cheeseparing economy is not a good principle and it is a bad practice, and it seems to me that in this matter the Board have to some extent erred. It is only a comparatively minor point in connection with the Regulations of the Unemployment Assistance Board. It is not a subject which affects the welfare of continents like that which has been discussed earlier in the evening, nevertheless it is a subject of very real and practical importance to those whom it concerns, and it concerns more than those who are actually touched financially by it. No better service of a domestic kind could be rendered to the community than to take the administration of unemployment out of politics. We all regret that politics have been allowed to creep in, and the appointment of the Unemployment Assistance Board was an effort to take it out of politics, but if they continue a practice of this kind it will mean that no self-respecting party can continue to support their existence.

I say that frankly, and I hope that the Unemployment Assistance Board will take heed in time. We who criticise can do but little; we are only a small minority. We can only make our criticisms when it is impossible to bring the full weight of real and effective opposition to bear, but the country is watching and noticing these things. The country notices the little things as much as the big things, and it is judging that Board by those little things. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman who is head of the Department, and to the hon. and gallant Gentleman his Parliamentary Secretary, to use their good offices with the Unemployment Assistance Board. I know that it is an independent Board, and it may be that that is the answer which the Minister is to give to me, but nothing can divest Members of Parliament of their responsibility to the people. We cannot throw responsibility away by putting it upon the shoulders of a Board. If these children are not getting sufficient nourishment we are responsible. It is our duty to raise the matter, and we can only do it through the Minister.

I earnestly hope that the Minister will yield to our very reasonable entreaties, and that neither the Minister nor the Board will regard it as a mere piece of negative criticism with a desire to obstruct, but will regard it as really constructive criticism. It is not intended in any way to try to damage the Board. I am anxious that this practice should be rectified as early as possible. Had there been any satisfaction as the result of our questions, I should not have raised the matter on the Adjournment. We know that the new Regulations have been put aside and that there is more or less a standstill agreement. Why alter that agreement in minor points until the whole matter comes up for reconsideration by this House? Is it wise, politic or fair, when we have been given to understand that there is a standstill arrangement, that, behind our backs as it were, alterations should be made in the standard allowances to the children? I very much hope that we shall receive something in the nature of a satisfactory answer. I am sure that we shall get a conciliatory one from my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.

8.39 p.m.


I raised this subject by way of question some weeks ago, and it was admitted by the Ministry that these deductions are in fact being made. It has been impossible to elicit information with regard to the amount of money that is being saved by the deductions, or the number of applicants who have been treated in the manner suggested in these arguments. Under the regulations certain exemptions are made with regard to meals. They cover meals which include milk or which are granted on medical advice. Meals for necessitous school children might conceivably come within the categories mentioned in the regulations. If the meals are for necessitous school children, it brings in the question of malnutrition and need from the medical point of view, otherwise those particular meals would not be granted. It is a point worthy of note, and of answer, as to whether these meals come within the category of the detailed exemptions. The meals are granted primarily, I understand, so that the child may take advantage of the education offered to it.

That is the reason behind the policy of the Board of Education, and that fact should be stressed from the educational point of view. The provision of these meals by local authorities, with the aid of a grant from the Board of Education, is with a view to enabling the children, particularly in industrial areas, to take the fullest possible advantage of the education offered. If there is any question of necessity or of malnutrition it cannot be expected that a child can take full advantage of the education. The Board of Education make a grant of 50 per cent., and have taken the trouble to encourage the extension of the provision of meals in industrial areas. They issued a circular about October last addressed particularly to industrial, depressed and hard-hit areas, encouraging not only the provision of meals, but the extension of the proposal.

The Board must know—and this in itself is an important point and is relevant to the matter under discussion—that it is in the industrial and depressed areas where meals are most urgently required and necessary at the present time. It is in the very areas where meals are more necessary than in other areas that the policy of the Unemployment Assistance Board is operating most stringently. It goes without saying that the Unemployment Assistance Board are bound to affect more people in the distressed industrial areas than in other areas, and it is in those areas where the Board of Education are encouraging the extension of the granting of meals, because they know that they are of greater necessity and urgency there from the educational point of view.

The policy of the Unemployment Assistance Board, therefore, in making these deductions, is militating against the policy of another Government Department. One can easily foresee that parents are not going to encourage their children to take advantage of these meals if they are not already receiving them, and if they are receiving them the possibility is that the parents, because of their economic circumstances, may not be too anxious for the children to continue to have those meals if deductions are to be made in this cash way. There you have the policy of the Board of Education and their endeavour to encourage the extension of the policy, and you are to have it absolutely defeated and vitiated by the policy of the Unemployment Assistance Board. One can find very little justification for this new practice of the Unemployment Assistance Board. If it involved the saving of some hundreds of thousands of pounds perhaps one could justify it, quite apart from a party point of view. One could at least point to the fact that it was going to save £200,000 or £250,000, or whatever it might be. But it is not. We cannot get to know the cost, but surely it is so small that the Unemployment Assistance Board could, hardly justify on financial grounds these deductions from the poorest people in the land, affecting children who are suffering from the direst necessity it is possible for any hon. Member in this House to imagine. How is the Unemployment Assistance Board, the Minister of Labour or the Parliamentary Secretary to justify this policy and state a case to the House? May I suggest, in all charity, that it is somewhat paltry and mean for the present Government to be indirectly responsible in any way for such a cheese-paring policy—to use the word coined by my hon. Friend—in dealing with the unemployed, particularly in present circumstances.

The Minister stated on one occasion, in reply to a question that I put, that his Department were watching the matter very carefully. On a second occasion, I think, I am right in saying that he stated that they were holding some kind of inquiry into the matter, and on a third occasion I think he said that consultations were pending or were being held between his Department and the Board of Education. That being so, we are entitled to ask whether there has been any result from that inquiry or from those consultations. In any case, on a matter of this character, which does not involve international affairs, which will not jeopardise the financial position of this country and will not embarrass the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but is a cry for ordinary elementary justice for people who most deserve that justice and most need the attention of the Government at the present time, I hope that the representative of the Ministry of Labour will be able to say something that will clear the Government and the country of any suggestion of guilt in economising in such a paltry, petty manner at the expense of people who can least afford even to lose a farthing at the present time.

8.47 p.m.


I heard the Prime Minister say once that the future of the nation depended upon the young. We have had an example to-night of two of the younger Members of the House bringing forward a very important matter. One is a supporter of the National Government and the other a Member of the Labour party. They are dealing with a matter which had it been known that it was to be brought forward to-night would have attracted a full House. The hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Bailey) has waited his opportunity. He waited last night thinking that he might say something on the Adjournment, and he has been waiting to-night, not knowing how long the previous Debate would continue. No one could be sure whether we should get an opportunity of dealing with this matter. I am not going to say any harsh words to the Parliamentary Secretary, because I know that he is just as sympathetic as myself towards the poor people. I am trying to find out from his Department what power they have in this matter. Have they power to veto the kind of thing of which we complain?

When the Bill passed through the House, Parliament agreed to certain conditions, providing that the shilling could be deducted. That was in the regulations that were laid down, but I understood that we had arrived at what is called a standstill arrangement. When the regulations were imposed there was such a feeling of bitterness among all classes of the community that the Government said: "Very well, we will allow these two things to go forward. If the old arrangement suits, you can have it, or if the present arrangement suits, you can have that." I should have thought that on a small matter like this where children have to be fed at school, the Government would have been generous. Where the "teacher," on examination, finds signs of a child being underfed—we all know that in many cases children go to school without adequate meals—the teacher makes arrangement for the child to be fed, and I should have thought, especially if the parent happened to be unemployed, that no question of payment would have arisen. Under the provisions for the feeding of necessitous school children we know that when parents can pay they are called upon to do so. That was the old arrangement which had been going on for a number of years. When I was a member of the St. Helen's Town Council we were as lenient as possible in dealing with this matter. We endeavoured so to arrange that the income of the household left the family in a fair position before we called upon them to pay anything for the feeding of a school child. I should have thought that that principle ought to obtain at the present time, because no one in receipt of unemployment assistance will reach the standard that we laid down as the standard to be satisfied before the parents were called upon to pay.

While the matter is in flux, while the Government are considering the whole position as to what the new regulations should be, whether there should be any question of means test, household means test or individual means test, I should have expected that the Government would have said to the Unemployment Assistance Board: "You have brought a storm of dissent on our heads; there is a big feeling against us which may react against us when we go to the country; therefore, stay your hands and be a little more generous, and you may take it from us that we will not say anything to you if you do not veto this kind of thing." The matter has been brought to public attention and the Government will not lose any prestige by saying that they realise the difficulty that has arisen and that they will not insist upon this payment from poor homes. In that way they would be doing a kindly thing. I realise that the Minister of Labour may not be able to do it, but if anything can be done I hope that he will take notice of what has been said by the hon. Member for Gorton and the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Cleary) who know of actual cases and the circumstances under which these people are suffering and I hope that the Minister will do everything that can be done to relieve these poor people of the burden placed upon them.

8.53 p.m.


When the question of children's allowances was raised, I opposed the Government because I thought that they were not dealing generously with the allowances for the children. An Amendment was moved, which I supported in the Lobby, that the allowance for children should be 3s. Then, to our amazement and extreme gratification, the Government showed that their large heart was even greater than our fears, and when the regulations came out we found that they were extremely generous compared with the previous regulations. During the last Government when an Amendment was moved that the children should be allowed 5s. many Members of the party opposite voted against that Amendment. When the present Government made a generous allowance for children we were very gratified and I am surprised that our large-hearted Government, who had so generously expressed their feelings towards the children should act in the way of which we now complain. I should like it to be pointed out where in the Regulations there is justification for such action. Is it based on some fiat that has gone out from the Minister, or is it the Board? Why should the Board of Education make a grant of a shilling and then the Minister of Labour comes forward and say: "We are not going to allow you to do that; we are going to have the shilling." Is that what is meant by a standstill arrangement? If so, I hope that some more satisfactory explanation will be given. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will point out under what Regulations this action has been taken.

8.55 p.m.


Although this question has been raised rather unexpectedly, I should not like it thought that Scottish Members have no interest in this human question. I want to press the Parliamenary Secretary as to the authority for these deductions. As far as I know there is no word about them in the Unemployment Act or in the Regulations which were approved at the end of last year and, personally, I was surprised to hear that these deductions were being made. On making inquiries I was told that no deduction is made in respect of the first child, but that deductions are made with regard to other children. On looking into the question as to the amount of the deductions I discovered—it is fair to make this quite clear—that in respect of each meal they are actually less than the cost of such meals to the household. It is a very small deduction. It is difficult to know the principle behind this policy. The Board have discretion under the Regulations to make additional allowances in special cases. The cases where children are getting three meals are special cases and additional allowance should be made, but it is a matter in which one is somewhat puzzled, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take heed of the representations which have been made and will make friendly representations to the Unemployment Assistance Board in order that this strange anomaly may be removed at the earliest possible date.

8.58 p.m.


I know from the questions which have been asked recently in the House the interest that is taken in this matter, and this has been further illustrated this evening by the fact that although this matter has been raised unexpectedly at short notice—I make no complaint on that score because I had ample warning—we have had five eloquent and forcible speeches. Let me come right to the root of the matter—why is the Board doing this; what authority has the Board for doing it? It must be remembered that under the Act the Board have power to make Regulations and these Regulations are made in accordance with powers given to the Board by this House. The Board, therefore, is acting within its rights quite legally. They were given considerable independent power of action.


The point is where is the authority; where is it to be found?

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

I have in my hand a copy of the instructions of the Board laying down the principles on which action is to be taken in assisting people in regard to these meals. There is no question as to the legality of the action of the Board.


The Parliamentary Secretary is not quite meeting the point. No doubt there is administrative discretion in the hands of the Board, but is there any definite instruction in the Regulations on this particular point which were approved by Parliament?

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

The Board have power to issue instructions as to certain things which may or may not be taken into consideration. No one questions the legality of the action which the Board have taken. The Regulations were laid before Parliament, and the Board have power to issue instructions as to the things which may or may not be taken into consideration. I have here a copy of the instructions which the Board have issued within the powers granted to them. Reference has been made to a standstill arrangement. I do not know how hon. Members interpret that term—it has no legal definition—but it certainly does not mean that the Board is reduced to a state of complete inactivity. The Board must continue to issue their instructions and to make their determinations. What the standstill arrangement meant was that in cases where the Board's determination was less than that to which the person was entitled under the old transitional payments he should have whichever was the higher rate. It did not mean that the Board was to be reduced to a state of complete inactivity. That is the basis of the authority on which the Board is now acting. It makes its determination by considering need on the one hand and resources on the other, totalling the need and the resources. That answers the point put by the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Bailey).

As to the particular method on which the Board proceeds in this matter let me take first of all the various categories in which the Board issue instructions that these meals are not to be taken into consideration. I ask the House to consider these exceptions in relation to the particular method on which the educational authorities grant meals in many cases. In the first place, there is the case where a doctor's certificate states that the condition of the child is such that extra nourishment is required. The next case is where milk or any special form of diet is ordered. There again the Board have issued instructions that it shall not be taken into consideration. Then meals up to two per day for one child, or one meal per day for two children, are to be entirely ignored. If this number is exceeded, meals are taken into consideration at the rate of 1d. per meal. We must remember, too, that the fact that meals are taken into consideration, only affects the amount of this allowance in cases where the Board's determination is actually higher than the rate which the parent would have been receiving under the old transitional payments.

The hon. Member for Gorton insinuated, I think, that where public assistance is concerned, in pre-Board days no consideration was taken of these meals. That was not entirely true. Before 1931 it was a fairly general practice for these meals to be taken into consideration in connection with public assistance. After 1931, it is true, that practice was considerably diminished but two big authorities, namely, London and Glasgow, continue it. We now come to the point of the actual saving or the financial consideration involved. The amount, as hon. Members have already said, is inconsiderable. It amounts to about £10,000 a year, but that does not seem to me to affect the argument one way or the other. It may be said that it is so small as not to be worth worrying about—


While the sum may be so small as not to be worth worrying about, from the point of view of the community, because the aggregate number of children affected is small, yet in the case of the particular home where every penny counts and only a little is coming in, it is worth worrying about.

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

It is perfectly true that all these financial adjustments, whether of a few pounds or of millions, in the end come down to the individual cases, and that argument can be raised on any particular part of unemployment assistance. I was merely taking up the point which hon. Members themselves made, that the total amount was so small that this was a question of cheeseparing. I mentioned the figure of £10,000 to show that it has not been on the basis of the financial saving, that this procedure has been adopted. That question does not enter into the matter. The Board is simply proceeding on its normal course of considering needs and resources according to general rules in making its determination.

The power of providing school meals has been in the past and still is interpreted widely by different authorities, which makes it all the more difficult to arrive at any standardised procedure. I need not however deal with that point but I would like to deal with the complaint which is being made and which was made to-night by the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Cleary) when he hinted that on account of these meals being taken into consideration, parents were being induced to withdraw children from having the meals. It seems illogical that a meal which in many cases can be estimated at a value of 3d. or 4d. should be foregone on account of the fact that in a limited number of cases it is taken into account as a resource to the extent of one penny. The Board last March ordered its officials to report at once any case in which there was any sign that parents were withdrawing children from school meals on this account, and since March only 30 such cases have been reported. In some of these cases the Board's officials report the parents afterwards changed their minds. I have other detailed figures on this subject, particularly from some of the special areas which have been mentioned, but I think that one figure is enough to dispose of the general insinuation that there is a wholesale withdrawal on account of the Board's procedure.

Charged as it is with a certain duty and exercising as it does, by the action of the House, certain independent powers, the Board is not anxious, I am sure, to hurt the efficiency of our education system. Before the question was raised in the House it had called for special reports from its officials as to the working of this provision. All those special reports are not yet to hand. The Board is in consultation with the Board of Education and, as I said in reply to a question, the matter has had and is having attention. When a promise is made that a matter will have attention and when, later, it is announced that the matter is still having attention it is often assumed that nothing is being done about it. In this case, the Unemployment Assistance Board and the Board of Education are as I say in consultation on the matter and they are the two parties principally concerned. Naturally, the Department for which I speak is watching the matter with a great deal of interest as it must watch any matter connected with the actions of the Unemployment Assistance Board. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) mentioned that two of the young Members of the House had raised this matter. I hope I am not too old, either in years or in service in the House, not to feel extremely interested in this very human subject. But, having referred to the fact that the complete reports for which the Board have called are not yet to hand and that the Board are still in consultation with the Board of Education, I do not think it is possible for me to say any more at present. In fact, I am not in a position to make any statement on the matter in the House to-night.

9.13 p.m.


As one who is by no means young in years and who has had experience of administering this sort of thing, I wish to point out that reports taken at a particular time are rather untrustworthy in connection with a matter of this kind. I do not think anyone can judge need so well as the teacher in the schools. I think the most distressing thing, with regard both to milk and meals is that the child waits for the assistance until the doctor certifies that it ought to receive the free meals or the free milk.


The practice is that as soon as the teacher sees any symptoms, however slight, of under-nourishment in a child, that teacher is authorised to place the child upon the free meal list there and then and subsequently the matter is referred to the doctor.


There is not very much between us. The point was that the child waited until it was seen that there was deterioration in its health before anything could be done. On the Poor Law Commission the trouble that we had in arriving at any decision on this question was that there were so many competing authorities dealing with the subject that you could not fix the responsibility anywhere. The hon. Gentleman has said that it is a matter for the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education, but the Ministry of Health comes in too, because when it comes to public assistance, which is what the London County Council is giving, the Minister of Health and his auditors determine this matter, and neither of the Departments that have been mentioned to-night. The Poplar Board were surcharged because we did not take these small meals and milk into account when assessing need, and I might tell the House why. We always maintained that, given fairly respectable conditions in the home, the fact that a child on Poor Law relief was needing these meals was a sign that we were not giving sufficient relief and we ought either to increase the relief or not take the meals or the milk into consideration. Really, when you get down to it, that is the bedrock of the matter.

I do not think that if you had local committees investigating these cases, you would find one committee in a hundred, in an industrial area, no matter what its political complexion, that would take them into account if the auditor left them free in their administration. But you have a huge bureaucracy at the centre now administering the Poor Law, because it is the Poor Law. The whole of the hon. Gentleman's speech, if he will allow me to say so, was the sort of speech that I have heard delivered time after time against myself and others administering the Poor Law, about the niceties of the assessment of the need of a family. You cannot really assess the need in that way, even when you have the person in front of you, and when you have a sort of autocracy in Westminster assessing these needs, it cannot be done, because the circumstances differ so in each case. A man may be a bit ill, or a woman a little ill, or the rent may be a little in arrears.

I know it is all supposed to be taken into account according to a sort of foot-rule, but in my judgment you cannot do it, and I have tried to administer the Poor Law among the lines laid down. You always break down when you come up against the factor of human need. It is impossible to assess them by rote. You have to take every case into consideration, and in the old days the whole of the Poor Law philosophy was that you should investigate each case thoroughly before you assessed its need. The Government now have decided to try to do that wholesale and to lay down one hard and fast rule, although the regulations do say that the officers have some discretion. Just think of the work that an officer has to do, and think also of what the general instruction is. As I understand it, the general instruction is, first, that the teacher must notice signs of ill-health, and then the child can have something, and then a doctor has to be called in to say whether the child still needs it. I have not only been a Poor Law guardian. I do not very often boast of knowledge about anything, but on the question of poverty-stricken families I yield to nobody in this House, and really, let each one of us look at our own children or grandchildren and ask ourselves whether we would like their needs to be assessed in this way. I would not, and I do not believe anybody else would.

Perhaps a few years ago I would have said that you were a hard-hearted, cruel, callous, cynical, brutal lot. I would not say so to-day, because I know that you have taken on a job, with this Unemployment Assistance Board, which you are liable to tumble over one way or another in a wholesale manner. I got up mainly to say that I hope that, in the consideration of the regulations, you will try to discover some means of administering this assistance to the poor which will enable you really to assess the needs, not by foot-rule or anything like that, but by knowing the actual needs at the moment when you are going to give assistance. I am certain that in the majority of these cases no local authority would dream of imposing any charge at all on the families, and I very much hope that during the Recess the whole matter will be reconsidered. I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education to remember the saying, "A healthy mind in a healthy body." A half-starved child cannot have a healthy mind. The business of the education authority is to see that the child is healthy in its body, so that it can get a healthy mind, and you cannot preserve a healthy body unless the child is properly nourished every day, with no necessity to go near a doctor.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-three Minutes after Nine o'Clock.