HC Deb 21 March 1946 vol 420 cc2028-9
39. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that the plans made by local authorities for providing day nurseries after 1st April will be adequate to meet the needs of mothers going out to work; how many local authorities have decided to reduce the nursery provision after that date; and how many have decided to increase the fees.

Mr. Bevan

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answers given on 14th March to the HON. MEMBERS for Spark-brook (Mr. Shurmer), Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and Silvertown (Dr. Comyns). As regards the latter part of the Question, only about half the authorities concerned have so far submitted their schemes for the period beginning 1st April, and I am not, therefore yet able to give the details asked for.

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we are now very near indeed to 1st April? In view of the fact that the demand for these nurseries in industrial areas is still very high, and in view of the danger to the children whose mothers go out to work without proper provision having been made, will my right hon. Friend concern himself with this problem?

Mr. Bevan

I have already concerned myself with this problem sufficiently to provide a 50 per cent. grant for local authorities, in addition to the block grant. If HON. MEMBERS who are concerned about this matter would address their importunities to their local authorities, they would do more good.

Mr. H. Hynd

As many local authorities arc backward in these matters, will the Minister consider making this function obligatory upon them?

Mr. Bevan

I cannot make obligatory a function to which local authorities make a grant. HON. MEMBERS must realise that what they are doing in this matter is very largely to undermine the initiative of local authorities.

Miss Herbison

Would not my right hon. Friend at least ensure that in districts where conditions are bad no nursery schools shall be closed, since they provide very great benefits to the children of the locality?

Mr. Bevan

I cannot accept the obligation of maintaining nursery schools open in areas of that sort. It is entirely improper that local authorities should have a grant of 100 per cent. for a service of this sort. That would have the effect of undermining fundamentally the functions of local government in this country. Local authorities have had adequate grants for the purpose, and they ought to discharge their functions. If local authorities do not discharge functions that we consider to be socially desirable, it is an entirely different question from the questions put by HON. MEMBERS.