HC Deb 28 March 1946 vol 421 cc561-2
30. Mr. Piratin

asked the Minister of Health if he will instruct local welfare authorities to limit the charge for the attendance of children at day nurseries to Is. per day, as is the practice, until Circular 221/45 comes into operation.

Mr. Bevin

I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 10 (f) of the Circular which says that the present charge should continue until 31st March. After that, part of the cost of the nurseries will fall upon the local rates, and welfare authorities will have discretion in fixing their charges.

Mr. Piratin

Is the Minister aware that if a local authority desire in any way to sabotage or boycott this order, all they have to do is to put up the rate to 5s. a day and no mother will place her child in a nursery, and industry will suffer?

Mr. Bevan

I should imagine that those considerations are well known to the local authorities, and I do not intend to send another instruction to them which would undermine the authority of local government.

Mr. Shurmer

Is the Minister aware that already, in the City of Birmingham, these rates are going up from 6s. to 18s. per week, which will mean a prohibition on In omen proposing to go to work?

Mr. Bevan

This seems to be a matter for representations to the Birmingham local authority, not for the Ministry of Health.

31. Mr. Piratin

asked the Minister of Health, whether he is aware that the Birmingham City Council proposes to charge 3s. per day for attendance at its day nurseries; and, as this will act as a deterrent to women working in industry, what steps he will take to ensure a reduced charge.

Mr. Bevan

I have not yet received the Birmingham City Council's scheme, but when I do so I will look into the matter. As the relevant Circular says, however, the question of charges is primarily one for the welfare authority.

Mr. Piratin

Is not the Minister avoiding his responsibilities in this respect by suggesting that local authorities can do exactly as they please, whereas, if they do as they please, we have the case of Birmingham, where they raised the charge by 3s. a day?

Mr. Bevan

The answer is that local authorities are receiving a 54 per cent. grant for this service, and they are also receiving from the Ministry of Health a very substantial block grant towards local government services. The local authorities, therefore, have no need to charge exorbitant fees for this service, but it surely is impracticable for the Ministry of Health to make local authorities merely passive instruments of the central Government's directions.

Mr. Martin Lindsay

Is the Minister aware that hon. Members from Birmingham are quite capable of looking after the problems of their city and do not require any assistance from the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin)?