§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, Eastern)
I desire to move, in page 1, line 5, after "1908," to insert "and the Education (Scotland) Act, 1913."
This Amendment together with the two following Amendments on the Paper and the Amendment to Clause 3, in my name, are drafting Amendments designed to clarify the meaning and facilitate the administration of this Measure by the education authorities. These Amendments have been examined and approved by the Education Committee of the Association of County Councils in Scotland and are, therefore, to be regarded as a serious attempt to improve the wording of the Bill. As you, Colonel Clifton Brown, will have gathered from your examination of these Amendments they are linked together and it may, therefore, be convenient if you permit me, while dealing with the first Amendment, to refer to the others as they form one group. The chief purpose of these Amendments is to avoid in this Scottish Measure the long-standing and rear evil of legislation by reference. This is a problem which the House of Commons has considered on many occasions. Time and again, the system of legislation by reference has been condemned. The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary of State have, I am sure, expressed the same views about it in the past, and indeed I think we are all at one in seeking to prevent legislation by reference. The present Bill affords an opportunity to translate into practice the unanimous wish of all parties in this respect.
The Committee will observe that Clause 1 proposes to reveal Section 6 of the 1908 Act. That Section, as the Secretary 260 of State explained during the Second Reading Debate, obliges school boards to provide food and clothing under certain conditions, for school-children who, by reason of the lack of food or clothing, are unable to take full advantage of the education provided for them. That Section, as I reminded the House, was the first step forward on the road towards the feeding and clothing of necessitous children. Conditioned though it was by provisos which we regard now as unnecessary, it was a measure of great enlightenment at that time, 34 years ago, and the Liberal Government which was responsible for it deserve recognition and gratitude to-day for the courage and warm-hearted sense which they showed. Without it, we should not have attained anything like the progress which has characterised Scottish health and education in the last two generations.
Clause 1 of the present Bill is designed to take the place of Section 6 of the 1908 Act, and therefore that enactment is to be repealed. I entirely agree with that suggestion. It is a sensible and I think a proper step. Its effect will be to bring the law up to date, a very laudable object, and the Committee, no doubt, assume that, in consequence, country clerks and their staffs need no longer turn up Section 6 of the old Act to keep themselves right in their procedure. But the Committee would be wrong in coming to any such comforting conclusion and for this reason. Five years after the passing of the 1908 Act, another Measure was placed on the Statute Book, namely, the Education (Scotland) Act, 1913, which extended the obligations of the school boards to the provision, in addition to food and clothing, of medical, including surgical and dental, treatment for needy schoolchildren. It laid down that the powers and duties of school boards in this regard should be governed by the provisions of Section 6 of the 1908 Act and that is why I submit that it is in Order to discuss this 1913 Act now, because it is related directly to the 1908 Act, Section 6 of which is being repealed by the present Bill. That 1913 Act, with its most valuable provisions, remain and is intended by the present Bill to remain a separate enactment, to which reference must be made on every occasion when medical attention for school-children is tinder consideration. Of course, every time reference is made to it a further cross-reference must 261 necessarily be made still further back to the 1908 Act.
Surely that is a cumbersome, time-wasting and irritating procedure, which ought to be abolished. There is no need for it that I can see, and it could be abolished by repealing the 1913 Act, as we propose to repeal the 1908 Act and incorporating its provisions in the present Measure. That is what my Amendments seek to do. The Under-Secretary has been good enough to remind me, through the Fife County Council, of what the position is, and I should like to quote from his letter on this subject:
This is what he said:It is not necessary to include the 1913 Act in the present Bill. If the Bill becomes law in its present form the provisions contained in Clause I will have effect in lieu of Section 6 of the 1908 Act, and consequently the reference in the 1913 Act to the provisions of Section 6 of the 1908 Act will, in accordance with Section 38 (1) of the Interpretation Act of 1899, be construed as a reference to the new provisions in Clause 1 of the Bill.I do not know whether that delightful piece of bureaucratic jargon impresses the Committee, or indeed comforts it, any more than it did me, but my reaction to it was to hold up my hands in horror and swear volubly. For indeed all that this masterpiece does is to swop one historical reference for another, and to jump seven years further back into the bargain. Now, instead of having to dive 33 years into legislative antiquity as authority for urgent work to be done in 1942, we are adjured by the Under-Secretary to go 50 years back. Surely this is a farce which the House of Commons ought to avoid, and I feel that I shall have the support of the Committee in endeavouring to grasp the nettle of legislation by reference and, as far as possible, crush it.
My first Amendment proposes to repeal the Act of 1939, the second is consequential, and the third, introducing a redrafting of Clause 1 seeks to incorporate the sense of the operative Clause of the 1913 Act. In fact, I am proposing to do with the 1913 Act precisely what my right hon. Friend is doing with the 1908 Act. He is repealing the Section concerned and incorporating its provisions in this Bill. I was advised after my Amendments had been put on the Paper, that their wording as they now stand would limit the scone of Clause 1 of the Bill and that a slight alteration can meet those defects. I have therefore handed in two manuscript 262 Amendments which I am advised on the best authority restore to Clause 1 all the powers which that Clause now has. I apologise for presenting Amendments in draft. I could have had them printed, but I was informed by the Clerk at the Table that to do so would mean redrafting the whole Order Paper. My last Amendment seeks to delete paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 3 and incorporate them in the earlier Amendments. I make this suggested change for the sake of neatness and to overcome the slight difficulty that under the Bill as it stands children under five who have not yet attended school are, nevertheless, under Clause 1 (b), to be examined to see whether or not they are unable to take full advantage of the education offered. It seems a little difficult when they are not being educated at all. The purpose of the Amendments is to make the Bill clear and compact and ready to use, and to avoid this troublesome business of cross-reference. I feel that if, by spending a little thought and care now we can speed the beneficent work of the authorities later on, we shall have done a very good piece of work for Scotland.
I have listened very carefully to what the hon. Member has said, but I am afraid that an Amendment dealing solely with the provision of medical treatment of children is outside the scope of the Bill, and I cannot put it. I must rule it out of Order.
Would you suggest to me, Colonel Clifton Brown, how one can meet this difficulty of cross-reference? If it is right to repeal one Act dealing with education and incorporate its provisions into this Bill, how do you advise me to proceed about repealing another Act?
I am afraid I cannot give advice as to procedure on that matter. The Bill repeals one Section of the 1908 Act, but I cannot advise how to repeal another Act. That is surely for the hon. Member to find out himself.
The 1908 Act is the governing Act for the operation of the 1913 Act, and my suggestion is that the 1913 Act is going to be left somewhat in the air as the result of this Bill, and in order to make the 1913 Act, which my right hon. Friend wishes to remain in operation, quickly and easily ascertainable, I feel that there is no way except to repeal it and incorporate its provisions 263 here. If the Title of the Bill needs alteration in order to meet the point, I should be prepared to move the necessary Amendment to the Title.
That is purely a question of machinery. It does not seem to me that, because an Act is the operating Act, I should be called upon to give any Ruling which would change the machinery, because the 1913 Act is also based on the 1908 Act. It does not fall within my province. The hon. Member has made his point quite clear, but I do not think it is a matter on which I can give advice or a Ruling.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 21, to leave out Sub-section (3).
This is designed for a very much wider purpose. The Sub-section empowers an education authority, after it has provided food and clothing under Sub-section (2), to recover the cost from the parents of the child. I am not clear whether the same sequence takes place in the case of Sub-section (1), where the power to provide meals is only permissive. Is the provision of meals in Sub-section (1) to be conditional or not upon payment by the parents? That has not been made clear, and I am told that there is some doubt about it. Whatever the sequence, the parent is to be required to pay, or to show reason by the production of particulars of his income why he cannot pay, for the food or any part of its cost. The purpose of the Amendment is to abolish this approach to the parent and to make the provision of food and clothing, to use the words of the Under-Secretary, "part and parcel" of the educational system in Scotland.
It is already the established policy of the State to ensure that all children shall have a basic education in Scotland for a continuous period between 5 and 14. Parents are obliged to see that this is done, and such education is regarded as the right of every child to be enjoyed free of any financial cost to the parent. That step was not taken without criticism. It was criticised on the twin grounds of expense and undermining the responsibility of parents. The same objections are now advanced against the further step which I am here proposing. These earlier criticisms are now condemned by all parties on the simple argument that it is in the national interest that the rising generation 264 of British citizens should be properly educated. It is regarded as in the highest national interest that that education should be universal and free. Since then that free right has been extended to include school books and many other educational services which at one time had to be paid for by the parents. Nobody contends that these rights have involved an undue financial obligation on the State or undermined parental responsibility.
What grounds are there, therefore, for advancing such outworn contentions in the case of feeding children? It was admitted that they were wrong in the case of educating children; why bring up these old-fashioned, out-of-date theories in the case of feeding children? Science and knowledge have advanced greatly in the last decade. We know that good feeding is essential to children if they are to benefit from their education. If they are not fed, the education will be wasted. It is universally accepted that sound nutrition in a growing child is as necessary as sound schooling in the national interest. I urge the Committee to bring its mind back to that fundamental need, the national need. We ought not to be concerned with whittling down this great Measure merely because Mr. A or Mr. B can or cannot afford to pay. It is in the nation's interest that the children should be educated and fed. I challenge any hon. Member to contradict either of these propositions. If they are accepted, where is the logic or sense in opposing a proposal to put nutrition on the same basis as education, that is, as a right freely at the disposal of every British child? There used to be and still is a good deal of criticism about the issue of free school books, on the ground that because they are free they are not valued and are misused. Nobody in any circumstances can say this of the free midday meal. It is something which no child can possibly ill-use or waste. Of all the free services of the State, this is the most economical, the most valuable and the one offering the best return. There may be waste in books and in education itself, but in a properly organised service not one penny of the State's funds need be wasted in providing a wholesome and substantial midday dinner for all children who want it.
The latest report of the Scottish Education Department shows that there are about 765,000 children on the school rolls. 265 My right hon. Friend has indicated that he wants to give the midday meal to 20 per cent. of them, that is, 150,000. At 5d. per meal, which is putting it at the highest figure my right hon. Friend mentioned—in some cases it is as low as 3d.—for five days a week and for 40 weeks a year, the total involved would be £640,000 a year. That is as about as much as the House authorises the Government to spend every hour of the war. Apparently, for the cost of one hour of the war we are to scrimp the feeding of Scottish children. If we do not spend this amount we may spend double the money in hospital charges, medical fees, nurses, medicines anti so on. And note the difference it would make to the minds and, therefore, to the health and general bearing of the children if a measure of the kind I suggest were adopted. Consider what will happen when this Bill becomes law. Johnnie's father is a munitions worker earning £6 a week. Jimmie's father is a ploughman earning £3 a week. Johnnie is an only child, but Jimmie has four brothers and a sister all at school. That is not unusual and it was my own experience. Johnnie's father can afford to give him 2s. a week for the school meal. That would be only 1/60th of his income. In order to do the same Jimmie's father would have to pay 12s. a week for his six children and that would involve 1/5th of his income, which he would be unable to meet. Is there any boy of spirit placed in Jimmie's circumstances day after day who would not feel wretched and sick at heart? I cannot conceive a system more directly calculated to breed class-distinctions and all the evil and unhappiness that come with it.
There may be something to be said for a means test imposed by the Minister of Pensions when soldiers' dependants appeal for Special Grants. There is nothing in justice, humanity or national pride to be said for a test of means to be applied daily on little children who need a midday meal. If we pass it, this will be the meanest means test in the Statute Book. It will negative the whole purpose of the Bill, for rather than submit his children to invidious distinctions, the ploughman will instruct his children not to line up in the queue but to go into the fields at lunch-time to eat their modest "piece," and because they are not debited in health and so "unable to take full ad- 266 vantage of the education provided" they will be outside of the control of the Secretary of State and among the tens of thousands who do not show that welcome percentage growth of which my right hon. Friend spoke so acceptably on the Second Reading. I believe the Secretary of State to be sincere in the object he has in mind. As much as any man in our time he has laboured for the better feeding of children. But of what avail will be all his sincerity if he has not the courage to make his plan effective? Now is his opportunity, when war provides exceptional reasons—mothers in factories, mothers working out; now, when the hearts of all men warm to the sacrifice of blitzed homes and brave mothers. Now is the opportunity, which may never return to him, for my right hon. Friend to do the big thing for Scottish children and, through them, for the nation as a whole.
Of what can my right hon. Friend be afraid? Is it the Treasury? If Parliament thought that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer stood in the way of this small but important reform, my right hon. Friend would not be in office for many hours. The county councils? Surely not. Some of them are reactionary bodies, I admit, but if Parliament laid it down that it was to be the duty of county councils to provide free meals for all children, can it be said seriously that the county councils would refuse to work the Act? They are working innumerable unwelcome measures of Civil Defence, and there is no word of complaint. Do not let me hear that excuse. Who can it be then? This House of Commons? In the Report of the Scottish Education Department we have had a summary of that remarkable book published by Mr. Seebohm Rowntree on his social investigations in York. It is worth while quoting from him, because what applies to York applies, I am certain, to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and other Scottish towns. In York nearly one-third of the 16,000 families visited were found to be living below the poverty line, fixed at the standard of living possible for a family of five. Over half the working class children there are born into families living in poverty. It has been said by the Under-Secretary of State that this Bill is a war-time Measure. Yes, but my right hon. Friend has larger ideas than that. He is looking to the future, 267 he is looking for a better world. This is his great chance to lay foundations for that better world. I shall be very sorry if, knowing my right hon. Friend's sympathy, and knowing how ready the House is to meet proposals of this kind, my right hon. Friend rejects this Amendment. I hope that he will not, because I and my friends here regard it as a matter of high principle upon which, if necessary, the opinion of the Committee must be taken.
§ Mr. Garro Jones (Aberdeen, North)
I hesitate to say anything in criticism of this Bill, having regard to the powerful array of Scottish Ministers who have backed it, but really this is not a very noble Measure. For the sake of preventing some advantage being conferred upon one parent in 20,000 who, being able to provide these benefits for his child, omits to do so, we shall impose upon all other parents the means test to which the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) has referred. So I say that on principle it is not a Bill of which my right hon. Friend or his colleagues can be proud. Neither, in my view, is it a particularly good Measure from the point of view of clear thinking and lucidity. If my right hon. Friend will look at this Sub-section, he will find that where an education authority make provision for a child they shall be entitled to recover from the parent the expense thereby incurred. How are they to recover it? Is it to be recovered by judicial process? Or is it to be recovered by some novel process of which we have not been informed? I invite the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor-General for Scotland to consider this point. If it is to be recovered by legal process, what is to be the evidence brought before the court? The Sub-section says that if the authority are satisfied that the parent is unable to pay the whole of the expense they are to be entitled to recover from him such part of that expense as in their opinion he is able to pay. How ludicrous that an authority should go before a court in Scotland and say simply, 268 "We consider that this parent can pay so much of this expense," without any need to produce evidence of the parent's means. It is merely a question of their opinion. Unless something can be said by one of the Ministers to justify the Committe in passing this Sub-section, we shall be well advised to insist upon the Clause being taken back for further consideration, with instructions to submit something better.
§ Mr. Magnay
It is with some diffidence that I enter this Debate, being a mere Englishman, but a serious matter of principle is involved here, because if this Amendment were carried, it would be, in my opinion, the first step towards getting better conditions for the United Kingdom generally. We often hear it asked "Stands Scotland where she did?" I should like to ask "Stands Scotland where she should be?" I have always had a great respect for the Scot. I have always esteemed him as being fundamentally right and as affording us a very good example, in most cases, certainly in the matter of education We have read the biographies of great Scotsmen and have learned with amazement, and with some envy, how they came over the hills to college with the grace of God in their hearts and a sack of oatmeal on their backs. That is what happened a long time ago. Now we live in far different times. New occasions teach new duties. Lest one good custom should corrupt the world we ought to take a new view in these days. It is obvious that we have a better background for the discussion of this point than we should have had 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago. The test of civilisation is the care that is taken of the child. Parents are judged by what they do for their children, what sacrifices, if need be, they make for their children. A civilisation cannot boast of being a great civilisation until it takes the greatest care of the child.
The Clause under discussion seems to me to be one of the most pettifogging things ever presented to Parliament. I am amazed at the lack of attendance on the part of Members of the Labour party on an important occasion such as this, and that it should be left to me to support this Amendment. Coming from a distressed area and being secretary of a distressed areas committee in the United Kingdom for the last 10 years, I have heard much said about the Government imposing a 269 means test, yet now the Government are proposing to do the same in this case, and, to use a popular turn of speech, to take it out of the guts of the bairns. In plain English, that is what the Bill means. The Bill is not in consonance with the Youth Movement, which we as a people consider to be the best and most important part of after-war legislation. We shall be acting contrary to the spirit of such a movement if we support the Bill while it contains this Sub-section.
I admit that there are arguments in favour of the means test, and I have stood up for a means test on proper occasions in this House, but not against old age pensioners whose only fault is that they have lived too long and thereby have exhausted their meagre capital, or against children, which should be the last thing in our minds. The children should come first. Well-to-do schools have an inclusive fee to cover the cost of good food, usually excellent and well-balanced meals. My children have gone to such schools, where good food was part of the curriculum. The fee which the ratepayers, not only of Scotland but of England, pay, should be an all-inclusive one, covering the necessary food. I take only one exception to the speech made by the mover of the Amendment, and that is to what he said about education and food. I would put food first. St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans that things natural should be put first and then should come things spiritual. We are taught to pray for our food—Give us this day our daily bread"—before praying for forgiveness of our sins. This makes our religion the most reasonable in the world. First of all, we must be natural. We must feed the bairns, because only when they are well fed can we expect them to be reasonable. I am amazed at the lack of attendance on the part of Members of the Labour party. Two Members of that party—this may be the reason or the excuse—propounded the Bill, but they have not the guts to get up to fight it out, as would have been done if another party had been concerned.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Having regard to the fact that I ran counter to my normal inclinations by giving the Amendment far more support than I felt it was entitled to, having regard to where I stand, I do not think that what the hon. Member has just said is justified.
§ Mr. Magnay
I know that the hon. Member has a great idea of his own importance, and it is no doubt well justified, but I cannot see how one speech can explain 80 Members not being present. I do not see how one Member, by taking thought, can add one cubit to the stature of the party. I thank the hon. Member for his support. His speech will be read, no doubt, with great interest and approval in Aberdeen. I know Aberdeen very well, and I know Edinburgh. Ministers may say that there would be local difficulties if the Amendment were accepted, but difficulties are made to be overcome. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, while the pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. Mobile canteens are fairly common now and become more and more the fashion. There are opportunities now for communal feeding, since British Restaurants are being set up in all sorts of places. Why cannot these facilities be used in this matter?
It is a mean and shabby thing to make invidious distinctions between parents who can afford to pay for a meal and those who cannot. I remember when we used to pay our school fees and buy our school books, and I can see now the kiddies coming out and getting slapped, six on each hand, because they had not the money to buy their school books. I remember how deeply I felt this matter in my heart, and the vows I made that when I got bigger I would do something to that school teacher for striking the kiddies for what they could not help. We shall be behaving in the same spirit by this Bill. There are parents who, because of misfortune caused by a thousand different things, cannot afford to pay for the meals. We should be the last to do anything which would depreciate the standard of the children's intellect and spirit. Girls will be able to learn how to cook. Boys will learn table manners. That is worth thinking about. The boys and girls will be made nicer to meet and to mix with after they have become accustomed to communal feeding, each attending to the wants of the others. The Minister is the very last man who, I should have thought, would find it possible to bring in these invidious distinctions between parents who cannot help themselves. He should see that the children get the food that they require.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I find myself in the peculiar position of supporting the Bill wholeheartedly, against the Amendment. I never heard such unreal speeches in my life. I take the last remark made by the hon. Member who has just spoken. I did not notice the great desire to do away with the contributions made by senior schools in respect of five years. I wonder whether my hon. Friend quite appreciates what has happened. The Bill applies to Scot land, where the position is rather different. Secondly, he said at the end of his speech that girls would learn to cook. What girls are going to learn to cook?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I know, in the long run, perhaps, but this Bill is supposed to be a war Measure. Even if the right hon. Gentleman did say it, the point is that you are going to provide, as a war measure, a larger number of school meals, with very great difficulty. I wish Scotland could have what is much more common in England, a senior school with vegetables grown in the garden and cooking learnt on the premises, and with a very large measure of support within the school. That is not what happens in my county, where a very large number of the meals will be brought in containers. I very much doubt whether that is the best method of doing it, but it is better than nothing. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) says that the Bill proposes a means test which will operate against poor children. The whole basis of school feeding up to the present has been to give food to necessitous children. As unemployment decreases, the feeding of necessitous children goes down too, as everybody knows, until you get to the point where, if unemployment faded away, there would be very few necessitous children who would require feeding.
There is, however, another point which is entirely new, namely, that it is a good thing educationally and socially to have a meal as part of the school curriculum. It is a perfectly sound proposition, and its advantages are fully known, but it is obviously not a thing which can be made compulsory. Many parents still prefer to provide a meal at home, especially in cities, where families live round the corner, and it is not always an easy thing to persuade parents to let their children 272 pay 3d., 4d. or 5d. a week for the school meal. In fact, the only successful paying meals have been in the countryside in England, especially where distances have to be travelled. It is therefore reading a great deal too much into this Bill to suppose that my right hon. Friend intends to provide one-fifth of the children in Scotland with free meals while the other four-fifths are to be kept at a disadvantage. That is such an obvious point that I will not pursue it.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Never mind whose fault it will be. I am facing facts, and my hon. Friend must face the fact as to what is likely to happen in the next four or five years. I do not accept this Bill as a postwar Measure. We shall expect something entirely different. What my hon. Friend has been confusing with this problem is something much wider, namely, the incidence of poverty, which occurs somewhere about the third child. There is therefore a very real problem of poverty among families with many children, and there are many ways of tackling the problem, one of them being by the introduction of family allowances to the parents of large families. If my hon. Friend thinks that that very serious problem can be dealt with by a free school meal, I beg to differ. There is a further point. The cost of this meal is to be 3d., 4d. or 5d. a week. My hon. Friend who has just spoken says, Why not have an all-inclusive fee? What does he mean? There is no fee; we are talking about free education.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Of course the State pays the fee. If my hon. Friend is suggesting that a free meal should be part of the curriculum of every school, he is in fact suggesting meals for a few and no meals for the great majority of the children.
My hon. Friend is putting into our minds thoughts which we never imagined at all. Our point is quite clear. We recognise that this must go by stages, but our ultimate aim is that every child who desires it—there will be no compulsion—shall be given a free midday meal as part of its school curriculum.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Ultimately you may get a great many things, but in the meantime there will be gross inequalities. On what 273 basis will children be provided with free meals? [An HON. MEMBER: On the basis of necessity."] That is being done already and has been done for many years. Any child in England or Scotland who needs a meal is entitled to-day to a meal free. That is nothing new. If, however, it is suggested that a meal should be provided as part of the school curriculum, without any way of deciding as to who receives the meal, it will be absurdly unfair and administratively unworkable. Administrative difficulties are usually made to be overcome, but this cannot be worked. To give a universal provision of meals throughout the schools would mean an entirely new set-up. There would have to be canteens and things like that, and I am absolutely certain that on that basis there would be absurd inequalities between different children.
That, however, is not the only point. There is a third point which my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife made. He said that it would be possible to provide meals in these schools in the near future. I do not know on what knowledge of the Scottish local education authorities and of the war position he bases that opinion. If he seriously thinks it will be possible to set up and equip canteens for the whole of the Scottish children, or even for a high proportion of them, during the coming year, I. must be deeply misinformed. I have made inquiries, and I think it would be impossible. It is possible, as a war measure, to feed a larger number of children, and I am in favour of using every possible occasion for furthering measures on which there is a wide measure of agreement. That is a perfectly sound proposition, but this, I think, is a highly controversial one, and its administrative difficulties make it impracticable. I cannot see how it would operate except with gross inequality to a number of children who may not be able to take advantage of the facilities provided in the areas of one or two local education authorities.
I do not think this is a very large Bill. It is a useful Measure, and I shall be glad to see it pass, but I do not think it is fair to my right hon. Friend to try and work into it a vast new scheme of social improvement when it is doubtful whether that improvement could take place for a number of years. Further, if the supporters of this suggestion are going to speak again, I would like them to give us 274 some further argument, or at any rate to explain how it comes within the bounds of practicability.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)
May I bring the Committee back to a sense of what the facts are in this matter? The facts are that necessitous children are now fed, under some authorities in Scotland, under something in the nature of a means test. To get even that feeding of necessitous children there is a long and elaborate procedure, a humiliating procedure, which is abandoned and abolished by this Bill. To the feeding of the necessitous child, it is proposed to make a number of additions. Obligations will be laid upon every local authority, and where we can prove that a local authority is not fulfilling its obligations, we shall have power to insist upon its doing so. In addition to all that, we are providing by this Bill for national nutrition on the widest possible scale. What the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) said a moment ago was perfectly true. If we could ask for power to feed the whole of the children who attend the schools, there would be a great deal to be said for defraying the whole of the cost. There are local authorities now which are feeding no children. There is a gradation of local authorities which feed children right up to, I am happy to say, in my own County of Stirling, 25 per cent., and in Ayrshire, 20 per cent. But between 25 per cent. in Stirlingshire right down through that gradation, we have to face the fact that it would be a tremendous matter in organisation, in feeding equipment, in cooking appliances, in teachers, and all the rest of it, to get up to 20 or 25 per cent. for the whole country. It will be a tremendous thing, and it will take a long time unfortunately to do it in these days. Supposing by hon. Friend's Amendment were carried and there were, under one authority, 20 per cent. being fed, and 80 per cent. whom the authority was unable to feed; who is going to select the 20 per cent.?
§ Mr. Johnston
We are doing it now, first, on the ground of necessity: secondly, we are saying that we will feed the rest on the grounds of nutrition. But observe what will happen if this Amendment is carried. With the limited supply 275 of food, the limited supply of equipment, and with the ability to feed, say, at a maximum 20 or 25 per cent. who is to select the children? Who are to be given the food?
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I may be under a misapprehension, but I understand that the children will then be selected on the basis of Sub-section (2). That will remain intact in the Bill, and it will only be compulsory on the local authorities to provide food for those children who, without it, cannot take full advantage of the education provided.
§ Mr. Johnston
I have already made that point. I have said it would be our duty to press laggard local authorities to see that every necessitous child is fed first. But on top of that we must do our utmost to see that the maximum communal nutrition is provided. I do not wish to be led away from my point. How are we going to select the children if this Amendment is carried? [Interruption.] No one in Scotland thinks it is easy. There is not a solitary local authority in Scotland to-day supporting this Amendment. Indeed, I regret to say I have local authorities in Scotland which are solemnly passing resolutions not to feed—
§ Mr. Johnston
That is an offensive suggestion, a most offensive suggestion, and one which I utterly resent. It is unwarranted, and I hope that the hon. Member will not repeat it. There are local authorities which are solemnly passing resolutions that if this Bill is passed, so far as the communal nutrition side is concerned, they will not operate it. Well, we shall have to persuade them. The obligation to feed the necessitous child remains, and it certainly is our duty to see, first of all, that every necessitous child is fed. Again, I repeat, who is to select the children if we are able to provide cooked food for only 20 or 25 per cent.? Who is to select the children on the basis that it is all to be free? The headmaster? Not a headmaster in Scotland would touch it. An invidious distinction, a test, most certainly there would be. It would be a most invidious test for a teacher or headmaster to apply. Unless and until we can say that we can supply food for 100 per cent. of the children attending the schools, a test of some kind 276 must be made, and it is unfair, unjust and unreasonable to put upon the headmaster the task of selecting which child is to have it and which child is not.
An attempt has been made to-day to say that education is free, and that therefore feeding is free. But feeding is not compulsory under this Bill; education is compulsory, but feeding is not. Surely nobody in this House would say to a parent whose home is adjacent to a school, "You shall be compelled to send your child to a meal at school." I do not envy anyone who tries to do that. There is no analogy between free education and free nutrition at this moment. It might be, and indeed I look forward to the day, when we shall be able so to develop our nutritional facilities that we shall be able to do many things in school which we are not able to do now. All that this Bill does is to maintain the provisions whereby a necessitous child is fed, to abolish once and for all the long, humiliating rigmarole of procedure which must be followed before that necessitous child is fed, and on top of that to see to the maximum of our ability that communal feeding centres are provided for all such: children whose parents are able to pay. We go further than that. We say that even if the parent is not able to pay in full, the duty shall be upon the local authority to ask the parent to pay such proportion as he is able and willing to pay.
I go further, and say that we have already said to the local authorities that in any charges they may make they are not to charge anything for equipment. It is only the bare cost of food that is concerned. That, I submit, is at present all that we can reasonably ask, in view of our limited facilities. If we go further we shall wreck this Bill. If we attempt to impose upon the local authorities provisions which they will not regard as reasonable, and which cannot indeed be justified at any bar of public opinion, if we attempt to impose upon them the obligation to select children, to feed those selected children and leave the others not fed, to have class distinction between the children, and all the rest of it, we shall, in my judgment, render this Bill of no avail and we might as well abandon, during war-time at all events, our attempts at organised communal nutrition of the school children. For those reasons I trust that the Committee will reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline)
I have not the slightest quarrel with the hon. Member who moved this Amendment. I quite approve of the idea that lies behind it. But I feel compelled to say a word or two on the Amendment in view of the taunts that came from the supporter on the other side. The hon. Member for Gateshead taunted the Labour party with not being here to support the Amendment. I am not saying that the Labour party, and particularly the Scottish Members, should not have been here; but perhaps there are other Scottish Members in the same position as myself. I had my last meal at home at 7 o'clock last night. I have been on the road since shortly after 8 o'clock last night and I came straight here, knowing that this Bill was under discussion. We do not need to be reminded from the other side that there is a war on. This is a Bill to deal with conditions which are prevailing, and which will prevail after the war. It is strange to hear such speeches made from that side of the House. If there is any credit due to any party for feeding school children, it is not due to the Tory party in this House. This system had to be forced upon Government after Government, and we considered that a great step forward had been made when we got the principle accepted that it was the duty of each education authority to provide meals for school children.
I am prepared to accept this Measure, with all its limitations, but it is much more limited that I should have liked it to be. I would like a properly organised system of providing all school children with midday meals. I would also like to see such equipment at all schools as would enable girls to learn cooking in a practical way. But what is the position? Take the county from which I come. We have established a cooking centre, in order to supply a number of British Restaurants in its neighbourhood. In addition, there are mobile canteens and that cooking centre is used partly to provide a midday meal to school children in the area. That is a beginning. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland opened that cooking centre recently. There are great possibilities. There is no reason why all the school children in that area should not be provided ultimately with a good hot midday meal. The children who are fortunate enough to get meals from that centre are 278 undoubtedly getting good meals now. That system can be extended indefinitely. But if these cooking centres are the best we can do in present circumstances, the girls who are attending school will be robbed of a form of education that is necessary. We have to face that. It is the best we can do in the circumstances of the moment. Not only children, but adults, are being fed from that cooking centre.
The hon. Gentleman tried to lead the Committee to believe that the whole thing was simple. I would like to tell my right hon. Friend that since he opened that cooking centre, and since these mobile canteens have been used to distribute food, it has been possible only to supply streets around the cooking centre. As soon as the mobile canteens go out the meals are bought up, for the simple reason that they are extra to what the coupons allow. Unless we are prepared to provide a system of wholesale cooking for the adult population, as well as for school children, there will be dissatisfaction, no matter how perfect the scheme may be. It is not so easy a matter as the hon. Gentleman would have us believe. I read a speech made by the hon. Member not long ago at a meeting of some Scottish Liberals. It indicated that instead of his going in the direction he now proposes, of building up a complete Socialistic system, he wanted to get back to the old idea of Liberalism.
This Amendment deals with the responsibility of local authorities for providing payment for meals. The hon. Member is going rather wide.
§ Mr. Watson
I agree that I was rather over-stepping the limits in discussing what the Liberal party stands for, even on an Amendment of this kind. But the Labour party has nothing to be ashamed of in regard to the provision of meals for schoolchildren. The circumstances are such that some test must be applied, either on the 279 basis of the income of the parents or on that of recommendation by teachers, headmasters, or medical officers, so long as we cannot go in for wholesale feeding of schoolchildren. The hon. Gentleman did not indicate how the test was to be applied. If tests were applied, a number of people now getting cheap milk would no longer receive it. Even in connection with that scheme, there is considerable dissatisfaction. Some people cannot receive cheap milk because they have not children of the prescribed ages. The hon. Gentleman referred to free books. He asked why, if we can have free books, we cannot have free meals? He comes from the same county as I do, and I can assure him that we did not get much support from East Fife for the proposal to supply free books. I do not think he represents a very large body of opinion in East Fife when he advocates free meals.
§ Mr. Watson
In East Fife, there is a very thrifty, hard-working population. The fishermen and agricultural workers there are independent people, who wanted to feed their own children. I would like to see everybody in a position to feed his own children, giving them all the food that they require. But I repeat that I am not sure that in demanding this great extension of the system of free meals in schools, the hon. Member represents the considered opinion of either the agricultural workers or the fishermen in the East of Fife. At any rate, those of us in the West part of Fife, the industrial part, have been pioneers so far as all these things are concerned. The provision of free books had to be forced on the East of Fife, and their attitude to the provision of free meals will be, I believe, the same. The hon. Member should not imagine that he is coming forward as a new leader. He is simply saying to-day what the Labour party has been saying for years. I also resent the remarks that were made by the hon. Member for Gateshead and the taunts that he threw across at these benches, because we have to accept a Measure of this kind as the best we can get in the prevailing circumstances.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
I want, first of all, to tell my Scottish friends that I apologise for speaking on this Amendment, but I have spent some of 280 my political life in Scotland, and I have some knowlege of their conditions, and I am also deeply interested in the subject of nourishment generally. My memories of Scotland include a very distant part of the Highlands, one of the most derelict areas in the country; in fact the most derelict in the whole of Great Britain—more derelict than Jarrow or South' Wales. Children had to go very long distances to school along bad roads in the Highlands, and the question of food caused particular difficulties. I heard many pitiable stories from the Sheriff-Substitute at that time of the parlous condition of their parents, the poor crofters. I just mention that in passing.
The subject of the nourishment of school children is one of the most important with which we have to deal. I do not think that we have given it sufficient attention in the past. The school children of to-day will be the citizens of this country tomorrow. They will have to hear the Whole burden of industry on their backs. They will have to carry the whole weight of production and will have the post-war troubles thrust upon them. We have got to the stage when people live to greater years, and they are asking for a pension at an earlier stage in their existence. There is a constant demand and clamour in this House for pensions at 60. Who will provide these pensions later on? The children of to-day when they reach the age of 18, and between 18 and 60 they will have to bear the whole of that burden by means of their productive capacity. Therefore it is our duty to see that they are now looked after as far as possible. It is only by nourishing and building up their bodies that they can properly be equipped for the battle that lies ahead of them.
I would remind the hon. Member that, while perhaps he is dealing with the subject of the whole Clause, it is not the subject of the Amendment we are discussing. We are discussing the question of giving local authorities power to enforce payment for meals by parents. That is the point of the Amendment.
§ Dr. Thomas
I was only making the point that the means test was being thrust into this question and that it would be very difficult for these children to obtain the help they ought to receive. I will leave it at that. I regret that the Minister should say that this is only a limited Bill. 281 I had hoped that could be used for the future, and that, although the education authority might not be able to apply it fully at the present time, nevertheless, they would be able to put the matter into working order.
Now what is a solvent family? That is a very difficult thing to decide. An education official might come along and say, "These people can pay." What really is a solvent family among the workers of this country? I do not know. They might be able to pay their rent or ordinary food bills and so on but they will have little left. Is it too much to ask the public authority to pay the little required for this school meal? My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) made the point that education and nourishment should be separated. I do not believe that children can get the full benefit of education unless they are properly nourished. That is fundamental.
§ Dr. Thomas
I support my hon. Friend in the Amendment he has moved, and I hope later, on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," to develop my arguments which I had hoped to put forward at this juncture, in order to save the time of the Committee.
§ Lieutenant Butcher (Holland-with-Boston)
I do not want to trespass beyond the rules of strict Order, but I was extremely disappointed with the remarks of the Secretary of State when he asked, How are you to determine which children are to receive this nourishment? I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) was right in drawing attention to Sub-section (2), which says that children who are to have the benefit are those in regard to whom it is brought to the notice of the local authority that they are unable to take advantage of the education provided. If we allow Sub-section (3) to be passed, we have two tests. There is the test in Sub-section (2) of the need for food and clothing to enable them to take advantage of the education. The Clause would be improved and be a far greater credit to my right hon. Friend if it were allowed to finish at the end of Sub-section (2). By allowing Sub-section (3) to remain in the Bill we bring in another test—not the test of need, but the test of means. When it is decided under Sub-section (2) that children need feeding, their parents under 282 Sub-section (3) are to be asked whether they are able to pay or whether they are not feeding the children because they cannot or because they will not.
I was extremely disappointed to hear my right hon. Friend refer in the early part of his speech to the fact that certain local authorities were doing so little in the way of feeding of children that he would not mention their names, and in a later part of his speech he said that they had not got any support from any of the local authorities. After all, they are the same local authorities. Who is to administer the case of need? Let us have a little more practical information. Is it to be done by the representatives of the Assistance Board? Does the receiving of money from the Assistance Board mean that feeding is necessitous? Does it mean alternatively that there is to be another visit from the education officer, who, within half an hour and on the same facts, may reach an entirely different conclusion? Until my right hon. Friend has satisfied us on some of these points, we really must ask for some further explanation to enable us to come to some decision on the matter.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
It is proper that we should start the business of the new year in the House of Commons with a Measure of this kind and especially seeing that it is of Scottish origin. We are in effect first-footing the House of Commons. We are taking the first steps to provide children with food. Some people hold that there should be more than food, but food is the essential thing when you are on a first-footing expedition. However much attention one might give to the speeches of those who are supporting this Amendment, I think that we must be compelled to agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the practical line that he has taken. I am sure that even those who are pressing this Amendment so strongly will agree that in this matter we are not limited by the will of the Secretary of State, but by the practical circumstances in which we find ourselves. I think the Committee should pay very strict attention to the eminently sensible speech which came from my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson). We are dealing with an Amendment that seeks to take out Sub-section (3) of this Clause. The speeches we have listened to were not limited to that, but they covered a much wider field, and it is 283 these speeches that have been replied to from this side of the Committee, and to which there has been a reply by the Minister. If the supporters of this Amendment had been absolutely sincere in the speeches they made to the Committee, they would not have been limiting their Amendment to Sub-section (3) of this Clause. They would have been moving very drastic Amendments to Subsections (1) and (2) as well. What they are contending for would require these Amendments to be made, and I am satisfield that much of what we have heard from the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) and the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) to-day was more in the nature of party propaganda than anything in the way of striving for the successful outcome of an effort to amend this Bill. I am sorry the Debate should have descended to these levels to-day. I am sure other Members of the Committee feel that as well as myself.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) asked—and it was one of his main points—how the amount provided for in this Sub-section was to be recovered from the parents of the children who were provided with these facilities. I think that point to-day is worthy of a considered reply from the Government, and perhaps we may have it before we part with this Amendment, or on the Motion that the Clause should stand part of the Bill. As I see it, the so-called means test that will be applied here—and it is only a means test looked at in a limited light—is not a means test being applied by the Secretary of State in this Bill. The recovery of whole or part of the cost of the meals is a question that is left to the local authority.
§ Mr. Mathers
The recovery of whole or part of the amount incurred for the provision of meals for children is a matter to be dealt with by local authorities at their discretion. They are in intimate contact with the people who are being served and have the best knowledge of how to apply any recovery method in respect of these charges, and I think we can safely leave it to them to deal with this particular 284 problem. Even so, I believe that the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen is one that is worthy of an answer by Government. Taking everything into consideration, as we stand at the present time we are entitled to say to those who put forward this Amendment that in happier circumstances we would have been willing to go along with them towards making the progress which they and we desire but at the moment we accept and limit ourselves to the length to which this Bill enables us to go, considering that in so doing we are making a substantial step forward and one which will be whole-heartedly welcomed in Scotland.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Whatever my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) says, the fact remains that this is a means test upon young children who line up for their daily meal at school. Nothing at all can alter that clear, outstanding and rather unfortunate fact. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State justifies that on the ground of expediency, firstly, because there is not sufficient equipment to provide any more meals and, secondly, supposing that there was, it would be rather difficult to make a choice of children. That is a very plausible argument, but it is an attempted get-out for my right hon. Friend and his friends. It is an obvious get-out, but it will not stand examination. Let us examine it. I could take my right hon. Friend to any country school in the constituency of East Fife to-day to which children have to walk one, two or three miles, or bus even further, and who are now getting a plate of soup at school. Equipment is there, and soup is made out of gifts offered by farmers. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to deny that if we gave schools further rationed foods now, there is no equipment available for a full decent meal to-morrow? Of course, he cannot deny that. The fact is that equipment is there in the great bulk of agricultural schools in the country, and these schools need these meals more than others.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Does the hon. Gentleman say that equipment now exists in the great majority of Scottish country schools?
I said, and I will repeat it, that I could take my right hon. Friend to any country school in East Fife—and I would also take the hon. Member, whose 285 reactionary views rather surprised me to-day—and show him plates of soup being given to children. If he would give the headmasters of these schools rationed foods, there is sufficient equipment to give the children not only soup but something in addition. I am not impressed with his argument, especially when, if a body of soldiers is suddenly moved to an area, it is possible to provide all the meals necessary. The Minister has drawn a red herring across the trail. I recognise, of course, that you cannot provide 100 per cent. meals for all the children at once. Nobody said so, but what I am trying to do is to establish a principle. How are you to select? If local authorities act under Sub-section (2) of Clause they may find all the children they need to employ the food facilities that are available. No question of the difficulty of selection will arise. Even if a few places were left over, is it not abundantly plain how it can be done? Women in war factories and on farms are working in conditions which justify their children having a meal at the middle of the day. I am not in the least impressed—and neither, I believe, will the country be—by arguments about difficulties of selection. The fact is that my right hon. Friend has let the cat out of the bag. Earlier in my remarks, I asked him of whom he was afraid. He has told us. He is afraid of the county councils. He has said that.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
There are cats and red herrings here. My right hon. Friend explained that a large number of county councils were passing resolutions.
He said that some county councils—a sufficient number to impress him—were passing resolutions saying that, whatever the House decided, they in their mighty attitudes and lordly positions would refuse to work it. I am very surprised that my right hon. Friend should have been impressed by this. The county councils that were invited at the beginning of the war to undertake great tasks in air-raid precautions might have said the same thing. But they are doing those jobs. So could they do this job, if it 286 were the desire of the House. It is a great principle that we are trying to establish. It is an extension of the Act passed in the olden days by colleagues of ours, of which we are proud; it is an extension in line with the political philosophy which I and my hon. Friends represent. It is a principle which we regard as essential, and on which we are now prepared to divide the Committee.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)
I should like to reply to one or two questions which I think it is better should be answered and to refer to one or two statements that have been made, particularly in connection with a county of which I have some knowledge. It has been suggested that there is equipment for all the schools in the county. I happen to know the County of Fife. There are one or two isolated cases where there is equipment, and in these cases the equipment, and even the food, has been provided as a result of the generosity of the farmers round about, and this despite the fact that the Fife County Council at the present time have power to feed the children. They have never exercised that power. For the purpose of inducing them to provide food for the children, particularly in the country districts, we have increased the grant. They had power to do it before, but they did not do it, with the result that the County of Fife comes within the category of those education authorities which provide food for less than, 3 per cent. of the children.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I am trying to bring it forward. Why does the Under-Secretary of State object?
§ Mr. Westwood
So are we trying to bring it forward, but we are trying to do it in a reasonable way in which we can accomplish the task we have set ourselves, and not set ourselves an impossible task. We have to carry the education authorities with us, and we can only carry with us authorities like the Fife County Council, and others, if we give them power to recover the cost where they are justified in recovering it. The Clause we are discussing deals not only with necessitous children, but with children who ought to be provided with food in order to avoid their being undernourished. In those cases, surely if we 287 cannot provide food for every child attending school, we must take the line that where the parents can afford to pay, they ought to pay. There has not been a single resolution from any authority in Scotland asking us to do otherwise. The parents have been paying and are paying to a very large extent in Ayrshire, and there is no differentiation between the necessitous child and the child who is not necessitous. The same thing applies in Aberdeen, where they are carrying out a magnificent piece of work and providing an excellent meal at 3d., and actually making a profit. Why? Because the only charge that arises is for the food; there is no charge for the equipment, the cooking, the arrangement of the school, and so on.
There is no means test whatever in the Bill. It is left to the local authorities to decide whether the parents can pay. If in the opinion of the authorities the parents can pay, they must recover the cost from the parents. That is right until the time comes when we can make the feeding of school children part of our educational system and not merely part of our wartime effort. I hope the time will come when we can do that. In the meantime, we hope to get the education authorities in Scotland, under this Measure, to feed 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. of the children. One authority which I visited recently has already made arrangements to feed not less than 40 per cent. They are responding well to the encouragement given to them by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I have been asked to explain what is the method of recovery. It is exactly the same as that which exists at the present time. For instance, in Aberdeen, on Monday morning the child takes the money for five meals at 3d. each, the money is paid, and the child has meals for the five days. In the case of the necessitous child, once the authority have determined that the parents are unable to pay, there is no further trouble, but there may be necessitous children, or children who are under-nourished, in whose cases the parents are morally responsible for paying, where they have been using their means in ways that no one could justify. Is there any justification in such cases for allowing the parents to get off paying? Is there any justification for their not appearing before the education authority? 288 The authority, having determined that the parents must pay, recover the money by visits of their school attendance officer, and, if necessary, take the parents to the court under the Small Debts Recovery Act for the purpose of recovering the money. Why should this not be done?
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Here we come to the crucial point. Suppose that the authority go to the court and say that in their opinion the parents are in a position to pay the money. I have attended the courts, as no doubt the hon. Gentleman has, and I can assure him that justice is not always done and does not always even appear to be done. Suppose that the parents say, "We cannot afford to pay this amount." Is the ipse dixit of the school attendance officer to carry the verdict in face of all the evidence which the parents provide?
§ Mr. Westwood
I have never said that it is to be the ipse dixit of the school attendance officer. It will be the duty of the education authority. They are democratically elected and they are entitled, under the powers we have given them, to determine whether the parents can or cannot pay, but once they have made their determination, it is their officers who have to carry out the recovery. I can speak with a little authority in this connection, for I have had 25 years of association with educational administration in Scotland. I do not know of a single case of that sort; I do not know of a single case where the education authorities have been unfair in dealing with these cases. In my experience the reverse has always been the case. When I have found parents spending money in ways in which they ought not to have spent it, at the expense of the wellbeing of their children, and when I have wanted to prosecute, there have been members of the authority who belonged to another political party who have not had the guts to stand up and say that the parents should be compelled to do what was right. The recovery will be made by using the machinery which exists at the present time. There have been no complaints and no instances of injustice. We shall continue to use that machinery for the purpose of collecting the money where the authority determine that the parents ought to pay for the meals. I hope that with that explanation the Committee will reject the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'be,' in line 22, stand part of the Clause."
|Division No. 5.]||AYES.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Hammersley, S. S.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Pym, L. R.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Harvey, T. E.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Hewlett, T. H.||Radford, E. A.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Rathbone, Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Assheton, R.||Hopkinson, A.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Ridley, G.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)||Riley, B.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Jagger, J.||Ritson, J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Jewson, P. W.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)|
|Bower, N. A. H. (Harrow)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Brabner, R. A.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Brooke, H.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Savory, Professor D. L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Scott, Donald (Wansbeek)|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Selley, H. R.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Keeling, E. H.||Shute, Col. Sir J. J.|
|Carver, Colonel W. H.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.|
|Cary, R. A.||Key, C. W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Challen, C.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lathan, G.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Leach, W.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Critchley, A.||Leslie, J. R.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Levy, T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Liddall, W. S.||Thorne, W.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lindsay, K. M.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lipson, D. L.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Little, Sir E. Graham- (London Univ.)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Loftus, P. C.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Donner, Squadron Leader P. W.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Drewe, C.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||McEntee, V. La T.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh Cen.)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mander, G. le M.||Watt, Lt.-Cot. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Mathers, G.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Westwood, J.|
|Elliston, Captain G. S.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Emery, J. F.||Milner, Major J.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Foot, D. M.||Mort, D. L.||Willink, H. U.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Paling, W.||Woodburn, A.|
|Fyfe, Major D. P. M.||Parker, J.||Wragg, H.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'broke)||Peake, O.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G.||Peto, Major B. A. J.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gledhill, G.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Mr. Munro and Mr. Grimston.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Magnay, T.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Dobbie, W.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Poole, Captain C. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Granville, E. L.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)||Mr. Henderson Stewart and|
|Dr. Russell Thomas.|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Dr. Russell Thomas
I referred a short while ago to the nourishment of school children in general. In spite of the fact that the Bill does not go as far as I hoped
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 163; Noes, 18.
§ it would go, I am glad that a Bill of this nature has been brought forward. Children will have to bear an enormous burden in future. They will have to carry the weighty problems which will be on their backs at the end of the war, and they will need to be in the finest condi- 291 tion of health in order to bear that burden. It is well that we should see to it that they are properly nourished, and I believe the Bill goes some way in that direction. Children are the most important part of our community. We are a declining population. Most Western countries are dropping in their population, and that is an important fact.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid I must remind the hon. Member that this is not the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Dr. Thomas
The object of the Bill is to relieve necessitous children, and children are one of the greatest causes of poverty. Under-nourishment is far more frequent than we think, and it is very difficult to assess. I believe that many children in the past have been undernourished and I think the Clause will go a long way to help in that direction. It is not always easy to tell what is an under-nourished child. Doctors disagree.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member does not seem to have understood my interruption. Speeches on the principle of a Bill are properly made on the Second Reading but are not permissible on a single Clause in Committee. I sympathise with the hon. Member's difficulty, because it is difficult to make the speech that he wants to make on this Clause.
§ Lieutenant Butcher
I think the Committee will be rather disappointed with the length to which the Bill goes as the result of the discussion on the earlier Amendment. It had the opportunity of being a very good Bill, and, had my right hon. Friend seen his way to accept the Amendment moved from these Benches, its benefits would have been greater still. We have three classes of children who may be fed by a local authority, first those whose parents desire that they shall be fed and desire to pay for their food—there is no difficulty there—then children, as the Under-Secretary said, will line up at the headmaster's desk with 1s. 3d. in their hands, covering five days' meals—
§ Lieutenant Butcher
I am sorry if I misinterpreted the hon. Gentleman, but I thought he suggested that it was a common thing for children to bring their 292 money to school for certain disbursements and that this course would be followed under the Bill.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has perhaps escaped Scylla in order to run into Charybdis. He is now apparently continuing the Debate on an Amendment which has been disposed of.
§ Lieutenant Butcher
I am grateful to you, Sir Dennis, and I hope to navigate rapidly away from the danger. We then have under the Clause a second class of children, who, the local authorities determine, are not able to take advantage of the education by reason of their necessitous condition, the parents also being unable to provide for them. The third and most unhappy category is that of children whose parents neglect them, who are able to pay but do not make the contribution that they should make. When we have reached that stage we have reached a very unfortunate position indeed. I do not think, if hon. Members were in different parts of the Committee, they would regard this with equanimity or allow it to go without making some protest. Nevertheless, despite silence and apparently acquiescence in it, I feel that there is great good in the Clause and I hope the Committee will agree to it.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I think the Committee is entitled to what one might describe as some straight talking on this Clause. It is my opinion that the opposition to it has not been put forward with a view in any way to assisting the children. It is merely another example of that type of political game which the Prime Minister appealed to us to have done with at least during the years of the war.
§ Lieutenant Butcher
It will be within the hon. Member's recollection that I am the only person who has spoken on the Clause and that I approved of it. No opposition, therefore, has manifested itself.
§ Mr. Davidson
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will also recollect that I referred to the opposition to the Clause. I wish to say on behalf of my colleagues from Glasgow that their absence is due to the lateness of the train. I understand that it has not arrived yet. I say that so that those who have taken part in the discussion shall understand the position. 293 Some of us were more fortunate and, travelling earlier, managed to be here in time. I hope that the hon. Member who made that criticism will remember that point.
This Clause says that the children of Scotland, whether they be of well-off parents or of poor parents, shall receive the same consideration and treatment; they shall be dealt with by the democratically elected education committees. It is not a question, as in the old days under Clauses that were supported by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart), of saying that the education committee must impose a means test. We say that it shall be within the discretion of the education committee to decide. That is to say, it is left to the men and women who are elected in the local areas. Does the hon. Member for East Fife want to take upon his shoulders the local government of Scotland? After considering many of his speeches in the House I think it would be a most backward step for Scotland to take. We have in Scotland committees elected by the people, and they will operate this Clause. Now this bold Member comes forward and wants to take away from the elected representatives in their own areas, who have been given a job of looking after the children, the right to decide whether a child shall receive certain food that is necessary. We have had local authorities approach the House of Commons in deputations to Ministers asking for the maintenance of their rights as people on the spot to make decisions with regard to the children under their jurisdiction. When the hon. Gentleman goes into Scotland he makes speeches about Scottish self-government and the greater direction by the Scottish people of their own affairs. Then he comes to the House of Commons and wants to take away from the education authorities any right to decide upon the conditions of the children in their own areas.
I have listened to the hon. Gentleman's opposition to past Bills in the House. He has made speeches to many Amendments, but in 99 cases out of 100 he has withdrawn his Amendments after making the type of speech that would suit his constituents. I am surprised that to-day he has allowed his Amendment to go to a Division. I think that he believes he has won some kind of political trickster's victory over the Labour Members who in 294 the past have fought him against any kind of means test.
§ Mr. Davidson
That is just a pity. One or two Members on this side were misled by the obvious trickery and by the attempt to place an onus of responsibility on the shoulders of men and women who can accept no responsibility for a means test but who say that elected local authorities should have their full rights under this Clause.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 and 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.