HC Deb 13 February 1958 vol 582 cc550-1
18. Mrs. Slater

asked the Minister of Education if he will state the approximate proportion of crockery plates, beakers, etc., used by children in the schools meals service, as compared with any other form of such utensils

Sir E. Boyle

I regret that this information is not available.

Mrs. Slater

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a growing amount of plastic plates and beakers is being sent into our school meals centres and that when hot greasy food has been served on plastic plates it becomes almost impossible to keep the plates clean and presentable for the children? Does he not also agree that it is an added insult to the area which I represent to send plastic ware there instead of pottery?

Sir E. Boyle

I understand the hon. Lady's concern about this, but I am told that nowadays local education authorities are increasingly buying earthenware plates in preference to plastic ones. My right hon. Friend regards this as a matter that ought to be left to the education authorities, and I must say that he is surely right there.

Mr. Hastings

In considering this subject, will the hon. Gentleman take into account the importance of providing sufficient crockery for the school meals service so that crockery can be dried in racks rather than by the septic method of using cloths?

Sir E. Boyle

The hon. Member has got to the root of the matter. During the war, and in the years immediately following it, the trouble was that there was not enough earthenware plates to meet the needs of the service. That is how plastic plates came to be used. This is now being rectified.

24. Mr. Allaun

asked the Minister of Education how the most recent figure of children receiving school dinners compares with the number before the last increase in prices both for Salford and for the whole country.

Sir E. Boyle

Last autumn's figures for England and Wales showed a fall of about 211,200 compared with 1956. The most recent figures for Salford are those which I gave the hon. Member on 5th December, 1957.

Mr. Allaun

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that a working-class mother with three children has now to pay an extra 6s. 3d. a week for school dinners, following three increases in price since 1951? Will he, for the children's sake, consider reducing the charge for these parents as well as others?

Sir E. Boyle

From what I have seen of school dinners, I think they are jolly good value for 1s. The percentage of children who had school dinners was 45.9 last autumn, compared with 47.9 the year before. Therefore, there has been no catastrophic fall in the number. As the hon. Member knows, there are arrangements which can be made for parents who genuinely cannot meet these charges.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the increasing number of unemployed in different parts of the country, can the Minister say whether all children of unemployed have free meals?

Sir E. Boyle

It is not possible to answer that categorically, as the right hon. Lady well knows, but the parents' circumstances, as she equally well knows, are fully taken into account.