HC Deb 30 July 1953 vol 518 cc1515-8
15. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Education how many parents have applied for assistance to meet the increased charges for school dinners; and what action she is taking to ensure that this service is fully utilised in view of the decline in the number of meals served to schoolchildren.

The Minister of Education (Miss Florence Horsbrugh)

I have no information on the first part of the Question. I have told local education authorities that I am willing to consider proposals for the adjustment of income scales to avoid hardship to parents.

Mr. Dodds

As many parents are unaware that assistance can be obtained under certain conditions and as it is the children from the poorest homes who usually need the meals most, would the Minister, before the schools reassemble, try to find some way of informing parents that the meals can be obtained, so that no child will be deprived of a school dinner by reason of too little finance in the family?

Miss Horsbrugh

Certainly, if it is not known, but from information I have from education authorities I think they have made it known and 85 of the authorities have already revised their scales. If there is any other information I can give the hon. Member I shall be glad to give it to him.

Miss Ward

Is it not true that teachers know all about this arrangement? Do not the teachers do their job satisfactorily by letting the parents know?

Miss Horsbrugh

Yes, I think the teachers are in touch with the parents and tell them and the authorities. If there are any cases such as those referred to by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) I think the very fact of his Question and the answer will draw the attention of the public to the matter. If there is anything else I can do to let them know I will certainly do it.

Mr. Lewis

Would not the easier way, rather than playing about with this, be to put back the price which was in operation prior to the measly increase of 2d. a meal which the Minister made last March? Would it not be better to give all children an opportunity by reducing the charge to what it was?

Miss Horsbrugh

No, I do not think so.

19. Mr. H. Wilson

asked the Minister of Education the percentage by which the number of school meals served in the Huyton-with-Roby area, or if separate figures are not obtainable for the appropriate divisional executive, since charges were increased, and comparable figures for England and Wales.

Miss Horsbrugh

I have no separate information about the number of school dinners served in the Huyton-with-Roby area or in the divisional executive in which it is situated. With regard to the last part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave on 16th July to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner).

Mr. Wilson

As the authority in question has put out figures suggesting a fall in the consumption of school meals by about 20 per cent., is the Minister not able to check with the divisional executive whether these figures are correct? If so, what is she going to do about this very serious state of affairs.

Miss Horsbrugh

I have the figures for the Lancashire County Council area as a whole, but I have not asked for figures of individual schools or divisional executives. If the right hon. Gentleman has the figure, it is perhaps not necessary to ask me for it.

22. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Minister of Education how many children were receiving school meals on a day in June, 1953, and a comparable day in June, 1952.

Miss Horsbrugh

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave on 16th July to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner).

Mr. Chetwynd

As that answer was tucked away in a series of answers in Written answers to Questions, may I ask the-Minister whether she is not appalled by this serious drop of a quarter of a million in the number taking school meals? Is not the real figure from the increase in last September about half a million? What does she intend to do about it?

Miss Horsbrugh

I have compared the figures for June last year with the figures for June this year. As the hon. Member knows, each year the number goes up in the winter and down in the summer. I have taken the same months, and the decline is from 49.1 per cent. of the children in the one year to 43.1 per cent. in the other, but I think the hon. Member should bear in mind that it is quite clear that there are other causes for this decline in the number as well as the fact of the extra charge.

Mr. G. Thomas

Is the Minister aware that there has been a 25 per cent. drop in the number of children in Wales who partake of school meals since she increased the cost, and will she not realise that this is a public menace? She is breaking down the whole service.

Miss Horsbrugh

I do not know upon what the hon. Member bases his figure of a 25 per cent. drop. If he means the school children in the whole country, in England and Wales 49.1 per cent. were taking meals in June last year and 43.1 per cent. in June this year.

Mr. Thomas

In Wales?