HC Deb 18 July 1935 vol 304 cc1200-2
22. Captain SPENCER

asked the President of the Board of Education what, if any, representations have been made to him as to the effect of Circular 1,437, dealing with the discontinuance of free milk and meals to schoolchildren in certain cases?


Certain representations have been made to the Board in the matter. The Board have made it clear that, before free meals or milk are withdrawn, a sufficient period should be allowed to elapse for the child's health to become firmly established. The Board have also stated that they would regard it as reasonable to take into account the conditions under which the child is living and to take special precautions, where those conditions are such that deterioration is probable if the meals are discontinued.


May we take it that the statement in a Manchester paper that children must be half starved before they receive such assistance is totally untrue?


My hon. Friend will see from the answer that that statement is completely without foundation.


asked the President of the Board of Education whether his attention has been called to the instruction given by the Conference of the Association of Education Committees to its executive to go into the legal aspect of Circular 1,437 in relation to the selection of children for free milk and meals; and whether, in view of the opposition of local education authorities to the circular and the resolution adopted by the Council of the British Medical Association that the onus should not be placed upon a medical officer of determining in every case that a scholar is presenting evidence of subnormal nutrition before free milk or meals are provided, he proposes to withdraw it?


I am aware of the instruction in question; I am not, however, prepared to withdraw Circular 1,437. I am satisfied that the system recommended by the Board provides the most effective means of securing that meals or milk are supplied to children who need them in order that they may obtain full advantage from their education, and that under any other system many such children may be overlooked. While the system recommended by the Board is opposed by some local education authorities, there are many authorities who select children on the basis outlined in the circular.


Has the right hon. Gentleman taken legal advice whether it is legal to impose this onus upon medical officers to determine whether a, child presents evidence of subnormal nutrition before free milk or meals are provided?


All those points, of course, were considered before the circular was issued.


Has the right hon. Gentleman availed himself of the advice given by a number of experts a year ago as to the necessity of these children receiving milk?

Viscountess ASTOR

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would have been a wise policy for the Government to continue to give milk throughout England even where children have not been proved physically defective?