HC Deb 15 February 1940 vol 357 cc939-41
35. Mr. David Adams

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether he is aware that the percentage of under-nourished school-children in Tyneside and Durham areas was 10 per cent. higher in 1938 than in 1935, and that routine school inspections showed more than three times as many under-nourished school-children in Tyneside and Durham areas as in London and the South-East in 1938; and what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the condition of children in Special Areas shall be safeguarded throughout the war food shortage?

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

Figures for the year 1935 for the Tyneside and Durham local education authority areas show that the percentage of children with slightly subnormal nutrition was 16.8 and of children with bad nutrition 1.6. Comparable figures for 1938 are 18 per cent. and .98 per cent. Similar figures for 1938 for all areas in Kent, Surrey and Sussex together with London, which may be taken as representing the South-East, are 8.28 per cent. slightly subnormal and .23 bad. Durham County, which has by far the largest number of children in the areas to which the Question relates, has been providing liberal quantities of free milk and is now commencing to provide solid meals for the more seriously undernourished children.

I have carefully examined the: figures for Tyneside and I cannot accept the hon. Member's general deductions. The Board have surveyed the arrangements made in most of these particular areas and will continue to urge authorities to use their full powers to provide additional nourishment.

Mr. Adams

In view of the fact that this depreciation in standards is admitted in the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, do I understand that further investigation will take place with a view to remedying this provision?

Mr. Lindsay

The decision has already been taken. The surveys of these particular areas were made almost entirely in the year 1939, and they urge a larger ration of milk, more solid meals and a revised income scale.

Mr. Silverman

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether the word "normal" is to be understood as being the average of those examined in the district, or does it mean coming up to some preconceived standard which children ought to attain?

Mr. Lindsay

I would rather not enter into that very difficult problem by question and answer. We always debate it on the Education Estimates.