HC Deb 06 February 1967 vol 740 cc1111-3
37. Mr. Booth

asked the Minister without Portfolio when he is likely to publish a report on child poverty and its related problems.

39. Dr. David Owen

asked the Minister without Portfolio what studies he is making of the problem of poverty in Great Britain; and whether he will produce a preliminary report on the family circumstances reviewed.

The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker)

I am greatly concerned at the whole problem of child poverty and, in conjunction with my colleagues, have been giving much anxious thought to it. We are determined to find the best way of helping the families concerned.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security told the House on 23rd January that she hopes to publish the report of an inquiry into family circumstances next May or June.

Mr. Booth

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that welcome news, may I ask if he will include within the scope of the inquiries which are being made with a view to publishing this report the special needs of the children of the disabled mothers?

Mr. Gordon Walker

The inquiry has already been made and I do not think we can launch another one at this moment. The problem is that it takes time to analyse and sift the results of an inquiry of this kind. This has not yet been completed. We are, therefore, not quite sure exactly which problems it will throw light on, but I hope it will on this particular problem.

Dr. David Owen

While welcoming my right hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box to answer on this subject, may I urge my right hon. Friend to consider that June is very late, and that he should publish this report at a time when those of us who are concerned about it can influence the decisions which are about to be made?

Mr. Gordon Walker

The report will be published as soon as possible. The only limiting factor is the need to analyse it. Directly that has been done—and that is in process—the report will be published.

Miss Pike

Does the Minister's Answer to this Question put to death once and for all the rumours that he is not, in fact, in charge of the co-ordination of the social services? May we take it that he is very much in charge of the co-ordination of the social services? Has he realised that this problem of child poverty first came to the forefront in the winter of 1963, and that hon. Members on both sides of the House and people outside the House have been studying this problem very urgently? It is really time now that we had some action rather than mere thought upon the problem.

Mr. Gordon Walker

As regards the first part of the supplementary question, I think there is a Question down to the Prime Minister on that matter, which he will be answering. As for the second part, I quite agree that this is a problem which has only recently been understood, and I am sure we were right to institute a very careful survey into its exact extent and nature. This was not done to delay things at all. It was done to make the best possible proposals in the light of the facts.

Mr. Will Griffiths

Will my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Government bear in mind the alarm which has been expressed in many quarters interested in this matter of poverty because of the rumour that the Government contemplate increasing the charges for school meals? Is he aware that the present charges have had the effect that an alarming number of children are not taking school meals now?

Mr. Gordon Walker

This, of course, is a matter for the Secretary of State for Education and Science.