HC Deb 18 November 1937 vol 329 cc561-2
41. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education why no figures later than those of eight months ago are available to his Department concerning the number of children receiving milk in schools; whether he is aware that the numbers of such children in rural schools have fallen by large numbers during the last two months; what is the reason for this decline and what steps he is taking to deal with it?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)

My Noble Friend is not aware of the large decline in numbers to which my hon. Friend refers. Returns are obtained from all public elementary schools twice a year, on 31st March and 1st October. The returns for 1st October, 1937, have not all been received. Complete returns are, however, available for 41 administrative county areas which are mainly rural in character, and in these the number of public elementary school children taking milk under the milk-in-schools scheme was nearly 35,000 greater on 1st October, 1937, than on 1st October, 1936, although the total number of children on the registers had fallen by nearly 10,000 during the interval. If the returns for 1st October, 1937, are compared with those for 31st March, 1937, the total number of children taking milk in these counties and the percentage of the total number on the registers were slightly higher in October than in March. As has already been said in replies to other questions, the Board are aware of the difficulties of distribution which exist in certain rural areas, but there is at present no evidence that these difficulties have resulted in a general decline in the percentage of children taking milk.

Mr. Stewart

Would the hon. Gentleman not examine the figures further, and satisfy himself that in strictly rural schools there is not, in fact, a decline, and whether the figures are inclusive of a good many urban districts as well?

Mr. Lindsay

I have taken one or two typical, essentially rural, counties, such as Herefordshire and West Suffolk, and in each case there is an increase and not a decrease. In the hon. Member's own adopted county there are 5,000 more.

42. Mr. W. Joseph Stewart

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education the number of children in the elementary schools in the administrative county of Durham and the county boroughs of Sunderland and South Shields who are receiving free milk; and the number that are receiving milk at a cheap rate?

Mr. Lindsay

On 1st October, 1937, 29,330 children were receiving free milk in the public elementary schools in the administrative county of Durham, and 29,364 were paying for liquid milk at the reduced rate under the milk-in-schools scheme. The corresponding figures for Sunderland are 3,268 and 8,084, and for South Shields 872 and 5,736.