HC Deb 09 December 1964 vol 703 cc1539-40
25. Mr. Hannan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the increase in the incidence of rickets in children in Glasgow, and that the uptake of vitamin welfare foods has declined by two-thirds in the last eight years, particularly since the imposition of increased charges in 1961; and if he will restore the free distribution of these foods.

Mrs. Hart

My right hon. Friend is aware that there has been a sharp increase in the number of children treated for rickets in Glasgow, and that the uptake of welfare foods in Scotland is now about a third of what it was in 1956. I do not think that abolition of payment for welfare foods would in itself ensure that they are taken by the larger families in poorer housing areas who need them most.

My right hon. Friend proposes to initiate more extensive studies of the prevalence of rickets and the diets and environment of young children in Glasgow and in other areas.

Mr. Hannan

Although that Answer is not wholly satisfactory, there is, nevertheless, the hint of a change from the policy of the previous Administration, which initiated these higher charges, putting children's health at risk. Can my hon. Friend say anything of the results of Dr. Arneil's investigation in Glasgow into the nutritional value of these foods and the need for the education of young mothers? Is the return of this disease due to the lack of nutrition or to the latter reason, or to both?

Mrs. Hart

Dr. Arneil's report, for which I think everybody must be very grateful, shows that there are several possible factors, one of which certainly is that young mothers tend not always to know what are the best foods on which to put their young children when they have been weaned. Another factor, however, is lack of sunshine, which affects families in tenement areas in Glasgow. Lack of sunshine leads to lack of vitamin D. These are the kind of factors which merit a more comprehensive survey so that more definitive answers can be given.

Mr. Galbraith

Does what the hon. Lady has just said mean that it is really lack of education, not knowing the right diet, rather than lack of money which is at the root of the problem?

Mrs. Hart

If the hon. Gentleman had listened more carefully, he would have heard that what he is suggesting is one factor. Clearly there are others. It is for this reason that a further study will be carried out.