HC Deb 11 November 1970 vol 806 cc381-3
27. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the number of Scottish school children receiving school meals and of the increase in revenue from the proposed increase in charges.

Mr. Edward Taylor

About 375,000 children were taking school meals in January, 1970. Savings in public expenditure of about £7 million are expected in the four years 1971–75. These are net savings after allowance has been made for the increased number of children who will be entitled to free meals under the more generous conditions which we are introducing.

Mr. Douglas

Would not the Minister admit, in view of his previous Answer, that he is financing an increase in primary education expenditure out of the pockets of people whose children need school meals? Will he undertake to ensure that the very valuable school meal service, particularly in the rural communities, is taken up, by conducting sample, and if necessary comprehensive, surveys to ensure that young people who require good nutrition at school are not denied it because of the increased charges?

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman's point was very much in the Government's mind. We want to concentrate help on those who need it, and the plain fact is—there is no denying it—that under our new more generous arrangements a higher proportion will be entitled to free school meals. We shall make every endeavour to make the facilities known.

34. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to ensure that children entitled to free school meals are not publicly identified.

Mr. Edward Taylor

This is a matter for the education authorities. They have, however, been advised on means of avoiding such identification, and I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the relevant Departmental circular.

Mr. Hamilton

While I thank the Minister for that reply, is he aware that the new Government's economic policy will bring further hardship to many people in Scotland and will mean that many children will require free meals? Will he make sure, within the power at his disposal, that children are in no way identified, and ensure that local authorities carry that out to the letter?

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that our new measures will increase the facilities for free meals. Although it may be that the case that occasionally children receiving free meals are identified, I want to make it crystal-clear to the hon. Gentleman and the House that I deplore this and will take every action to make sure that my views and those of the Government are brought clearly to the attention of local authorities.

Mr. Robert Hughes

On a point of order. May I raise a point of order about a reply by the Secretary of State to a supplementary question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who was advised, when he asked about investment grants for Scotland, to put down a Question? I put down a Question to the Secretary of State some days ago about this very matter, and it was transferred to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Have we a right to question the Secretary of State on the matter, and can we get a reply if we put down a Question again?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I deprecate the raising of points of Order during Questions. I think that the hon. Gentleman could have raised it afterwards


Mr. Speaker

Reverting to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes), I should explain that I cut in on the hon. Gentleman's remarks because Question Time was going rapidly, and it is good practice to raise points of order after Question Time. The position is that Ministers themselves decide to which Ministry a Question shall be allocated. If the hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied with what has happened about a Question of his, the Ministers concerned will have heard his protest.