HC Deb 07 May 1953 vol 515 cc563-4
40. Mr. Castle

asked the Minister of Education how many school dinners were served in the year ended on 1st March, or other convenient date in 1952 and 1953, respectively.

The Minister of Education (Miss Florence Horsbrugh)

The number of school dinners served in the year ended 31st March, 1952, was approximately 596 million. I regret the information for the year ended 31st March, 1953, is not yet available.

Mrs. Castle

Can the right hon. Lady say why she is so evasive about giving figures for the decline in school meals since the increase in price on 1st March this year? Is she aware that in many county areas there has been a disastrous drop in the number of meals taken and in the Lancashire county area the number of meals taken had dropped by 45,000 a week at the end of April?

Miss Horsbrugh

The hon. Lady asked me for the year and, as I pointed out to her, I have not yet got the figures for last year. As to the point of whether there has been any change in the numbers and what drop there has been, if any, I have already informed the House that I have asked for figures for a date in June. I will get those figures and be able to give them to the House then.

41. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Education if she is satisfied that meals served in the schools are generally adequate in quantity to meet the needs of growing children; and what steps she has taken to see that the average quality justifies the increased price of 9d.

Miss Horsbrugh

Yes, Sir, from reports received from Her Majesty's Inspectors I am satisfied that, in general, school dinners are satisfactory both in quantity and quality.

Mr. Palmer

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the economic policy of Her Majesty's Government is tending steadily to reduce the practical value of this important social service?

Miss Horsbrugh

No, I am not aware of that because the cost of the food and the amount has gone up. If the hon. Member can tell me of any case of any particular school in which he considers the children are not getting value from the quality or quantity point of view. I shall be pleased to look into it.

Mr. Shinwell

Are we to understand from that reply that the cost of food has actually gone up since this Government came in?

Miss Horsbrugh

It has been going up since—[Interruption.] It went up at the end of the time of the last Government; it has become more steady, but we have not been able to reduce it to the point at which it was before the last Government took office.