HC Deb 01 December 1970 vol 807 cc1064-5
21. Mrs. Doris Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what extra financial benefit will be paid to families who receive payment under the Supplementary Benefits Scheme to enable children to purchase school milk.

Mr. Dean

None, Sir. The scale rates paid in respect of children under the supplementary benefits scheme are intended to keep them well nourished. Free school milk will still be provided for all children in nursery schools and classes and special schools, and in primary schools up to the end of the school year in which their seventh birthday falls. It will also be provided for children up to 12 who need it on medical grounds.

Mrs. Fisher

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that there are many people, including widows, who have young children and who do not spend their money on booze but who look after these children? Is he aware that taking free milk away from those between seven and 11 will cause real suffering and bring about a loss of nutrition?

Mr. Dean

As I have said, this is provided for in the scale rates. In addition, expectant mothers and children under five will still get free milk tokens, and there are special additions when special diets are needed, so that the medical needs of these children will be fully taken care of in the arrangements we have introduced.

Dr. Summerskill

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why milk is necessary for the healthy growth of a child up to the age of seven but after that it is apparently unnecessary? Would he accept that we on this side consider this particular measure to be harmful and ill considered?

Mr. Dean

I do not claim to be a nutrition expert but I think the hon. Lady will agree that it is at the younger ages when this milk is particularly required, and we are carrying out what seem to be the realistic priorities in this matter.

Mr. Martin

Does my hon. Friend recall that after 1951 there was a similar outcry from the Labour Party about the abolition of orange juice?

Mr. Dean

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of that.

Mr. Marks

Is it not true that the three- or four-year-old who is fortunate enough to go to nursery school or to be in a nursery class will get free milk whereas the three- or four-year-old who stays at home with mother will not? Should not this anomaly be sorted out?

Mr. Dean

If the children are in nursery schools they will still get free milk. That is the intention. As I have said, children under five and their mothers will still have the provision which we have made available.