HC Deb 14 June 1971 vol 819 cc42-167

Order for Second Reading read.

3.59 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I had not expected to introduce the Bill against the background of the statement that we have heard to-day. It shows in one way that all Governments are faced with similar problems, especially problems relating to the level of public expenditure, which includes central and local government expenditure; the level of taxation, the awareness of which is shown by people who always quote their net take-home pay rather than their gross incomes, but a situation in which nevertheless inadequate provision is found in some sectors for which the Government are responsible. We all of us, wish to find more moneys for certain sectors in the education and other spheres.

The purpose of the Bill is partly, therefore, to enable us to switch our priorities to fill some of the gaps in educational provision, particularly to improve and replace old primary schools, but at the same time to ensure that those who have a medical need for milk at school should continue to receive their milk free. More generally, the purpose is to implement the proposals relating to school milk announced in the White Paper "New Policies for Public Spending".

At present local education authorities have a duty to provide milk to pupils in primary schools including nursery schools, pupils who are junior pupils up to the age of 12 in middle schools, and also pupils in special schools. Under the Bill the duty towards children in special schools remains unchanged. In primary schools, including nursery schools, children will continue to receive free milk until the end of the summer term in which they reach the age of seven. Other children in primary schools and junior pupils in middle schools will continue to receive milk free if the school medical officer so recommends.

It might be helpful if I say why the end of term after the age of seven was chosen as the date upon which the supply of free milk to a pupil should cease. It is different in Scotland because the legislative arrangements and the practice are different. There the date 1st August has been chosen, which, I understand, is a date which always occurs in the school holidays. For England and Wales we chose this time so that it would be unnecessary for the schools to monitor the date upon which the children reach the age of seven during the school term and also so that supplies of milk to a school should be virtually constant during the term itself. It means that many children will receive free milk until they are aged 7½ or more.

I should like to say a few words about the medical grounds upon which the supply of free milk will continue to those in primary schools and some children in middle schools. The responsibility for authorising free milk will be that of the school medical officer. At school a number of medical records are kept, and when this provision comes in I would expect those records to be gone through to see if children who perhaps were at risk need to have a further examination to see if the continued supply of free milk is advisable. Otherwise, the family doctor, welfare officers or teachers can always refer pupils to the school medical officer for his opinion on whether further free school milk is necessary.

There is a difference between the Bill and the White Paper. The White Paper said this in paragraph 19: Pupils up to 12 who have a medical requirement will not be affected. The pracical arrangements will be discussed with the local education authorities. During discussions with the authorities they had pointed out the difficulties which would arise if medical milk were given up to 12 years in every case, as this would mean reintroducing title to free milk into secondary schools where there is no present administration to cope with it.

Therefore, for medical milk the Bill follows the arrangements for free milk made by the last Government when they restricted title to free milk to primary school children: that is, medical milk will be available at primary schools even though the child is over 12 and it will be available at middle schools up to the twelfth birthday but will not be available at secondary schools.

The previous Government when withdrawing supplies of free milk from secondary schools asked the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy for its views. The Committee was unable to say whether the withdrawal of milk would be prejudicial to the health of any particular group of children. Free milk in secondary schools was withdrawn nearly three years ago and no adverse effect has been observed on the nutrition of that age group. This time, because there was provision for milk on health grounds, there was no formal prior consultation, but the Chief Medical Officer was consulted informally and subsequently his Committee endorsed his advice that it was not possible to predict whether or not harm would result from the withdrawal of further free milk but that careful monitoring would detect the effects, if any, at a stage when they were mild and reversible.

Our proposals for milk on health grounds themselves are designed to protect children who might otherwise be at risk, but as an additional safeguard the Chief Medical Officer's Sub-Committee on Nutritional Surveillance is making plans to monitor the position generally to ensure that any effects would be detected early.

Further, the Department of Health and Social Security, with the approval of C.O.M.A., is initiating a dietary and clinical survey of children in each of the areas Croydon, Bristol and Sheffield, and initial data has already been collected in schools in those areas.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

Will any of the schools to be monitored be in Scotland? Scotland is referred to in the Introduction to the Bill.

Mrs. Thatcher

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office tells me that the answer is "Yes". I am responsible for schools in England and Wales. I understand that schools in Scotland will be monitored. Indeed, I believe that this point was raised in an Adjournment debate, as the hon. Gentleman will be very aware.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

The right hon. Lady says that she has responsibility for England and Wales. I took it for granted that the Secretary of State for Wales would be making a separate announcement, but this is obviously not to be the case. Why has she not included at least one school in Wales in the list of schools to be surveyed?

Mrs. Thatcher

The general monitoring under C.O.M.A. is one aspect of the safeguard. The special dietary survey under D.H.S.S. is a further additional safeguard. The general monitoring will apply to schools in Wales. I am sorry that the three of us cannot speak from the Front Bench in this debate, but the general monitoring applies more widely than the special survey relating to the three areas.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

If schools are to be monitored, would it not be much more sensible to monitor schools in places like Tyneside and Merseyside, in the developing areas, where the full impacts of this policy will be felt?

Mrs. Thatcher

The general monitoring will take place widely. There is a special survey in selected schools in the three areas I have mentioned, one of which—Sheffield—was chosen fairly far north. The special survey could not be held everywhere. I hope that hon. Members will be satisfied that reasonable safeguards will be taken, both in the general monitoring and in the special survey.

I expect reference will be made during the debate to the survey carried out last year by a team headed by Dr. Lynch—not a medical doctor—of Queen Elizabeth College, London University. This was a questionnaire survey sponsored by the National Dairy Council. Over 4,300 school children, more than half from primary schools, were asked by the team to recall everything they had eaten in the 24 hours preceding the interview. The nutritional intake thus gauged was then related to modified versions of the recommended intakes of nutrients for the United Kingdom published in 1969 by the Department of Health and Social Security. On this basis a number of preliminary findings were announced at a conference last September. So far no further report has been issued.

The Department of Health and Social Security was asked about the survey by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) on 19th May, and my hon. Friend gave the following reply: The survey was said to suggest that the dietary pattern of numbers of children could give rise to much concern. To the best of my knowledge, Dr. Lynch has not yet published his full report. However, I understand that his survey was made without any clinical or physical examinations and, if this is so, its finding could not be considered adequate evidence of undernourishment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1971; Vol. 817, c. 323.] No further information has been forthcoming on that particular survey, but it is clear that the Department of Health and Social Security would require clinical evidence of undernourishment before it could accept the findings in the report.

It is right that I should be asked about the effect on the poorest children of the withdrawal of free milk in schools. Again, I stress at the outset that if there is a medical need in the primary schools children will receive free milk whatever their parents' income. We believe that this was the right way to tackle special needs which may arise concerning individual children.

For those parents on social security payments the withdrawal of free milk occurs within a short time of increases in social security benefits. [An HON. MEMBER: "Disgraceful."] It would be more disgraceful if there were no increases in social security when this withdrawal took place. The withdrawal will occur at a time when increases in social security will have a number of effects.

For a married couple with three children of school age on social security there will be an increase of £2. Increases in social security benefit automatically raise the income scales for free school meals yet further. The net income for remission of charges for school meals will also go up by £2 for a family of this size, and there will be corresponding increases in the net income scale for families of other sizes. This means that many families who applied for free school meals earlier this year and were disappointed because their net income was £1 or £2 over the scale will qualify from next September. In the case of families with more than three children, the net income scale qualifying for some entitlement to free school meals will rise by more than £2 a week—in some cases by considerably more. So there will be those arrangements for children whose parents are on social security benefit.

For those who unfortunately are on unemployment, sickness or widows' benefits, increases will also come into effect on 20th September. For a married couple with three children of school age on unemployment and sickness benefit there will be an increase of £2.50 and an increase of the same amount for a widow with three children of school age. These increases will take effect on 20th September, within a short time of the withdrawal of free milk from certain of the age groups.

For those families on low wages or salary who have young children there will be the family income supplement of up to £4 a week starting on 5th August. The increases in social security, unemployment, sickness and widows' benefits and the family income supplement are concentrated on those who need them most and will enable families to purchase milk, or other food should they prefer it. Indeed, I believe that it is probably the most comprehensive protection to help the most needy groups concerning any withdrawal that there has ever been.

For those above the tax threshold with children, the child tax allowances have recently been increased and will shortly take effect. The withdrawal of universal free milk between the ages of seven and 11 has been accompanied by a concentration of provision on those who need it most.

The Bill also provides for the sale of milk in schools. At present local educational authorities have no power to sell milk, although they can sell other drinks. This is an anomaly arising from the 1968 legislation. Even if there had been no change in duties regarding free milk, we would have taken the first possible opportunity to amend the law to enable local education authorities to sell milk in schools. The power in the Bill applies to pupils of all ages. Milk can therefore be sold in secondary as well as in primary schools. This is an increase in the powers of local education authorities.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

May we assume that local authorities which wish to supply milk free of charge out of their own resources will not be prevented from doing so? Will the right hon. Lady also tell us what is the anticipated net saving to public funds from this nasty little Bill? In giving her answer, will she take into account that the anticipated saving of £4 million from cancelling school milk in secondary schools has in the end boiled down to a derisory £1.2 million?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope to deal with the local authority point later in reasonable detail. The saving in a full year would be £9 million, leaving £5 million still on free school milk. That should also be set alongside the £75 million per year subsidies on school meals.

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

Will my right hon. Friend allow one question on behalf of milk producers, such as those in South Worcestershire? What will be the effect of the Bill, measured in terms of diminution of demand for liquid milk, over the whole of the milk producing industry in this country? If she has not got that figure readily available, will she arrange for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to give it before the end of the debate?

Mrs. Thatcher

The, reduction in demand is expected to be about 1 per cent. It is not possible to give a more accurate figure because, by giving power to local education authorities to sell milk in schools, particularly in secondary schools where there is no power to sell milk at present, it is hoped that in those schools consumption may go up.

Sir G. Nabarro

That is a splendid reply.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I again point out—

Mr. Fred Evans (Caerphilly)

Has the right hon. Lady had any preliminary consultations as to what administrative machinery will be set up for receiving the milk, arranging for the collection of money for milk supplies, and has any calculation been made, if teachers and head teachers are not to do this, as to how much ancillary help will be needed and what it will cost?

Mrs. Thatcher

This power is being given to local education authorities. How they use it is a matter for them. They will have latitude in deciding how they shall use the power. We do not expect any extra duties to be put upon teachers, although there will be consultations with the teachers before any regulations are made.

Mr. Fred Evans

Not yet?

Mrs. Thatcher

Under the Bill local education authorities are given fresh powers and latitude as to how they shall use those powers and, indeed, whether they should use them. I am not certain whether the hon. Gentleman is pleased or not about that increase of powers and discretion to the local education authorities.

Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)

What administrative arrangements have been made concerning the medical officers who are in charge of these schools? The right hon. Lady has talked about medical milk, which is a new term to me. I should have thought that milk was physiological rather than medical if one is going to concentrate on preventive medicine rather than giving milk after a disease has occurred. What diseases or conditions have been authorised as requiring "medical milk"?

Mrs. Thatcher

They have not been authorised. This is a matter left to the school medical officer to certify whether, in his opinion, a child needs a future supply of free milk after the ordinary title to free milk has ceased. We shall leave it to the school medical officer to decide how and when that certification shall be made.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

While the right hon. Lady can still remember the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) on costs, since she claimed that £9 million would be saved from public funds, would she say whether she believes that six, seven or eight times as much milk is now drunk in primary schools as was drunk in secondary schools before that milk was stopped, since the total saving when secondary milk ceased was less than £1½ million?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have given the best estimate which we can make at present. No doubt our estimate will be tested in due course.

The Bill specifically provides that regulations with regard to the sale of milk require the expense of providing milk in the exercise of the power to be defrayed by pupils or their parents. A nominal charge is not within the terms of the Clause. Indeed, if it were, the Bill would be reintroducing cheap or virtually free milk into secondary schools, and its purpose of containing public expenditure would be not merely defeated but reversed.

This is because the power to sell is introduced into secondary schools as well as into primary schools. The regulations will not impose any new responsibility on the teachers, but, as I said in answer to an interruption, as they have a special interest in all arrangements in schools, their associations will be consulted over the revised regulations.

In non-maintained schools free milk up to the end of the summer term after the age of seven will be provided, but there will be no milk on medical grounds. In answer to the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Shirley Summerskill), I would point out that I used the term "medical milk" as a kind of shorthand for that longer phrase. The difficulty of administering any such charge would be out of proportion to the number who are likely to become affected. Non-maintained schools can already sell milk to their pupils.

The point of the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) has been raised in a number of papers and by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central (Mr. Edward Short)—about a possible discretion for local authorities. There has been a suggestion that the Bill should include a provision to give authorities discretion to continue to supply milk free to those primary school pupils who will no longer receive it, provided that all the expenditure is rate-borne.

I want to put a number of arguments to counter that suggestion. First, money spent from the rates is just as much public expenditure as money spent from taxes or a combination of both. Part of the purpose of the Bill is to contain the increase in public expenditure and to switch the destination of some public monies in accordance with new priorities. It would entirely defeat the larger purpose of the White Paper if, having cut down on milk to give more for primary school buildings, family income supplement and so on, and to reduce taxes, one were to put the milk burden back on the rates, thereby increasing total expenditure once again. It is the total public expenditure for which central Government have responsibility.

The second point is that when rates go up in any area, from whatever cause, local authorities tend to ask for more rate support grant and to blame the Government if more is not forthcoming. The Government, therefore, would indirectly have to provide more central moneys to counter the rise in rates, from whatever cause—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman intervenes from a sitting position, but he knows full well that this is true. When we come to the rate support grant negotiations, local authorities are always anxious not only to increase the grant but to increase the proportion of local expenditure which is met by the rate support grant.

Third, although the expenditure could be excluded from relevant expenditure for rate support grant purposes, this by itself would not guarantee that the cost would fall on the rates of the individual authority concerned. This is because each authority's actual expenditure is taken into account in the distribution of the resources element which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is the equalisation factor in the rate support grant.

Thus any authority which qualified for a resource element grant and chose to give free milk to the 7–11 age group would be eligible for a larger share of that grant at the expense of other authorities. Therefore, it is not possible, as the law stands, for the expenditure to be totally rate-borne. Even if it were, we still have to counter the problem that one of the aims of the Bill is to reduce total public expenditure and to switch resources from expenditure on one item to expenditure on another.

Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)

Would the right hon. Lady tell the House of any other heading of expenditure where the Government have decided to withdraw or to cut down their contribution to local government spending, where, following on such withdrawal or reduction in Government contribution, a Bill has been introduced telling local authorities that they may not spend any of their local rate money in substitution for the Government's spending?

Second, how does she reconcile this petty little Bill with all the talk about greater freedom for local government to embark on their policies to benefit their people according to the judgment of the locally elected authorities?

Mrs. Thatcher

On the first part of the question, an example is the hon. Gentle man's own Government's Bill abolishing the supply of milk to secondary schools—

Mr. Freeson

The right hon. Lady has misunderstood the question.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not misunder stood the answer. There was no power in that Bill either to substitute milk for sale or to give milk to the children who had a need for it on medical grounds. Instead, the answer was that it was either free milk or no milk at all. And that was a Bill of a kind in which the powers of local authorities were reduced. Certainly, no power was given, or no residual power, under which—

Mr. Freeson

The right hon. Lady is deliberately misleading the House.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not deliberately misleading the House. Will the hon. Member listen?

There was a Bill, which was not called the Abolition of Milk in Secondary Schools Bill, but I hope that he is not denying that his Government abolished free milk in secondary schools and gave no corresponding power to sell milk, and that there was no residual power for the local authorities to supply milk on the rates? If there were, the hon. Member would not have needed to ask his question because that residual power would exist now—

Mr. Freeson

Now answer the second part.

Mrs. Thatcher

Would the hon. Gentleman remind me of it?

Mr. Freeson

I do not accept the misleading answer which the right hon. Lady gave to my first point—[Interruption.] It is a twisted answer. The second point was, how do she and her colleagues reconcile this petty little Bill with all the talk about giving local government greater freedom to exercise their powers, to pursue policies on behalf of their local people, by whom they have been elected?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have just said that the Bill gives an increased power, which does not exist at the moment—a power to sell milk in secondary schools as well as primary schools. Immediately I announced that that power was contained in the Bill an hon. Member asked precisely what discussions I had had about it, as if he wished certain conditions to be attached to the power.

The hon. Member knows, as do others on his Front Bench, that total public expenditure is a matter for the Government. Also, if he had listened or had worked it out, he would have discovered that at the moment there is no such thing in some authorities as expenditure which is totally rate-borne. If an authority receives the equalisation factor of the rate support grant, it receives money from the Exchequer as a contribution towards the actual expenditure of that local authority, regardless of the destination of that expenditure.

Mr. Dick Leonard (Romford)

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the logic of what she has just said? Surely it is that no local council shall ever have the option to introduce any policy which has not previously been authorised by the Government Front Bench.

Mrs. Thatcher

I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment about this matter because I am not wholly responsible for it.

There is a section in one of the local government Bills which gives the power to spend up to the product of an old penny rate, but that power cannot be used, I believe, to extend powers already given by virtue of legislation. So there is a discretion under that, but it is a discretion within very carefully controlled limits. For obvious reasons, Governments wish to have control over the total of Government expenditure and the amount of rate support grant, which, in the areas of some authorities, amounts to as much as 90 per cent. of local expenditure, although the average is about 57½ per cent.

Mr. Fred Evans


Mrs. Thatcher

I think I should continue. I am generous in giving way but the result is that sometimes I make a longer speech than I would wish because I do not occupy anything like all of it.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask my right hon. Friend, as she has said that she would finish—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

I cannot accept a point of order asking something of a right hon. Friend. A point of order must be addressed to me.

Mrs. Thatcher

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Dame Irene Ward

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If I may say this to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it was the hon. Gentleman opposite who got the pledge from my right hon. Friend, but his Front Bench colleague intervened—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

There seems to be a misunderstanding as to how we ought to proceed. I think that the right hon. Lady would gladly have given way to the hon. Lady if the hon. Lady had asked for that. That might be, perhaps, the best way to deal with this.

Mrs. Thatcher

I will gladly give way to my hon. Friend.

On the question of extra discretion on this particular point, on the understanding that the expenditure was rate-borne, I wanted to give the arguments against that and some indication that for some authorities, as the law stands at present, there could be no such thing as totally rate-borne expenditure which did not rank in some way or other for rate support grant.

Dame Irene Ward

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I was trying to indicate to her that it was the hon. Gentleman opposite to whom she gave the pledge and his priority seemed to be interfered with by his Front Bench. I thought that my right hon. Friend would like to know that she had given a pledge to the hon. Gentleman. I was only trying to be fair to the hon. Gentleman for once.

Mrs. Thatcher

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

To return to the Bill, there are four Clauses. Clause 1 retains the free milk for special schools, primary school pupils aged 5, 6 and 7, those with a medical need above that age and generally up to 12 years, except in secondary schools. It also contains the power to sell milk. Together with similar powers for Scotland in Clause 2, but modified according to Scottish practice, altogether some £9 million in a full year will be saved on free school milk. The third Clause is in common form and makes the necessary adjustments to rate support grant.

We are not arguing about the nutritional value of milk—that is accepted—nor about whether it should be available in the schools—that is accepted; indeed, the Bill gives powers to make it more available in secondary schools than it is now. The argument is about how much should be paid by the parent and how much by the taxpayer, who, of course, in part, is all other parents.

At present free school milk to primary schools costs £14 million a year. Concerning primary school children, we are spending twice as much on milk as on school books. This seems to indicate another area in which we need more expenditure.

This short Bill is designed to implement the proposals relating to school milk announced in the White Paper "New Policies for Public Spending". The proposals form part of the Government's plans for establishing more sensible policies for public expenditure and for ensuring that users of social services who can afford to pay more for them should be asked to do so, while those who need more help should be given it. The savings to be effected by the changes in the arrangements for school milk amount to £5.9 million this year but about £9 million in a full year. They are small by comparison with those being achieved in other ways but they nevertheless will help to find the extra resources for improving or replacing our old primary schools.

On that basis and in that context I commend the Bill to the House.

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

I have been a Member of the House 20 years this year, 14 of them, unfortunately, with a Tory Government in office. This is the meanest, most unworthy Bill that I have seen in the whole of that time—taking the milk away from the nation's young children. It is mean, squalid and unworthy of a great country. But it is typical of the philosophy of this astounding, pre-Disraeli Government. However, I shall talk about the Government and the Bill later in my speech.

First, I should like to say a word about the historical background of school milk. It started 49 years ago with an experiment in Birmingham. A pint of milk a day was given to 50 under-nourished children for two months. At the end of that time they had all increased in both height and weight a great deal more than the children without milk. This created very great interest in the early twenties and led to larger-scale experiments, especially those of Boyd-Orr and Cory Mann, and their results confirmed the earlier results.

In 1927 the National Milk Publicity Council for England and Wales started to provide one-third of a pint a day at a penny per one-third pint, including the straw. By 1933 1 million children were having milk. In 1934 the Milk Act transferred the scheme to the newly-formed Milk Marketing Board, which was subsidised by the Government. That was 37 years ago. One-third of a pint a day was provided at one half-penny for all the children in elementary schools in this country, and it was given free to those from poor homes. So the legislators in this House of 37 years ago were more forward-looking than the present Tory Government.

Dame Irene Ward

I was here then.

Mr. Short

By 1939 half the children in State-aided schools were getting milk, and during the Second World War the scheme was extended to private schools.

The 1944 Act, which is still the bulk of our education law, in Section 49 gave the Minister power to make regulations imposing on local authorities the duty to provide milk. It is this section which this miserable little Bill seeks to amend.

It is true, as the right hon. Lady has said, that my predecessor in 1968 withdrew milk from the secondary schools. As she has quite rightly said, he consulted the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy, and it was not able to advise that the withdrawing of milk from secondary schoolchildren would result in any nutritional detriment. But what the right hon. Lady did not say was that the Committee advised that to withdraw it from children below the age of 11 certainly would.

The right hon. Lady talked about monitoring to the outcome of her Bill. We wonder why the inquiry or monitoring was not done before the decision to withdraw milk was taken. I make two points about this. First, child deprivation in this country is largely concentrated in the old industrial areas of the North. Why has no area north of Sheffield been chosen? Sheffield is in South Yorkshire, in the Midlands. Why have no schools in Tyneside or Mersey-side or elswhere in the North been chosen? We shall not regard it as valid monitoring if no schools from the Northern development areas are included.

Second—perhaps the Minister who is to reply will give direct attention to this—will the Government give an undertaking to reinstate free milk if the monitoring shows that general standards of nutrition are affected by the withdrawal of milk? Will the Government report to Parliament after a reasonable period of monitoring, and will they undertake that, if the monitoring shows that nutritional standards among children between the ages of 7 and 11 have suffered, free milk will be reinstated? We want a direct answer to that question.

The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) asked about the quantities of milk consumed. At present, 36 million gallons are consumed in a school year. If the Bill is passed, that figure will be reduced to 15 million gallons. The right hon. Lady said that the cost to the farmer was 1 per cent. The Milk Marketing Board has estimated that the cost to the farmer will be £5 million a year. The Tory proposals will reduce the number of children receiving free milk from the present 5 million to 2.1 million, a reduction of 2.9 million among 7 to 11-year-olds, in order to save £9 million.

I repeat what I said in the last debate on this subject this amount, together with the increased charge for school meals, saves exactly the £38 million which is needed for tax relief on higher earned incomes. The source of that is col. 1391 of HANSARD of 30th March, 1971, the Chancellor's Budget Statement, in which he gave that figure. The higher earned incomes, be it remembered, are incomes in excess of £4,005 a year. I shall quote several passages from the Tory document, "A Better Tomorrow"—I am a constant reader of it—but at this point I take these words: We will reduce taxation…. These reductions will be possible because we will cut out unnecessary Government spending.

Sir G. Nabarro

Hear, hear.

Mr. Short

Here is a reduction of £38 million in taxation on earned incomes of £4,000-plus a year, paid for entirely by withdrawing milk from primary schools, and increasing the price of school dinners.

There is another reason why the Government have withdrawn milk from primary schools which may have escaped a great many people, and I shall come to that later. What it amounts to is that in Tory philosophy, the philosophy of this astounding Government, the provision of milk to 7 to 11-year-olds is unnecessary public expenditure.

How unnecessary is it? The right hon. Lady said that this debate was not about the nutritional value of milk. On the contrary. It is precisely about the nutritional value of milk. I shall quote the comments of a number of people, and the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South need not scoff at that because I shall include a quotation from his weekend speech.

Professor John Yudkin, of the University of London, said: The simplest and most economic way of ensuring that children contain the diet necessary to promote health is to make sure that they get a good supply of milk each day". In July, 1960, in the House of Lords, Lord Hailsham—in his previous incarnation—said: One of the main reasons perhaps, for the remarkable improvement in children's health in recent years has been the access of children to reasonable supplies of fresh liquid milk."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th July, 1960; Vol. 225, c. 327.] Lord Boothby, discussing the Budget proposals in November last year, said: What is beyond dispute is that, as a result of these proposals "— that is, the Chancellor's Budget— a great deal less milk is going to be drunk by a great many more children in this country. Nobody can tell me that that will be a good thing for the rising generation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 17th November, 1970; Vol. 312, c. 1005.] Winston Churchill said: There is no finer investment for any community than pushing milk into babies". This weekend, the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South said: Spend less on booze and more on the kids".

Sir G. Nabarro

No, not this weekend, and the right hon. Gentleman has the terminology wrong, too. I said: Spend less in the boozer and more on the kids". I said it in the House of Commons, and then I went and broadcast in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, and repeated it for good measure.

Mr. Short

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I have repeated it again for good measure in the House of Commons.

Sir G. Nabarro

A splendid maxim.

Mr. Short

Milk is the most nearly perfect food because it has a better balance of all the essential nutrients than has any other single food. The right hon. Lady referred to the published recommendations of the Department of Health and Social Security regarding nutrients for various age groups. That report said that foods supplying one-sixth of one's daily requirements of a nutrient were a reasonable source of nutrients, and it went on to say that a pint of milk a day supplied to 7 to 9-year-old boys or girls provided 18 per cent. of the calories, 34 per cent. of the protein, 136 per cent. of the calcium, 4 per cent. of the iron, 55 per cent. of the vitamin A, 25 per cent. of the thiamine, 47.5 per cent. of the niacin, 85 per cent. of the riboflavine, and 42 per cent. of the vitamin C, of the recommended daily intake, according to the Government's own figures. Milk, therefore, is a major source of the daily intake of nutrients which the Government themselves say are necessary.

The right hon. Lady referred to the inquiry being carried out at Queen Elizabeth College in the University of London. It is true that this is an inquiry being carried out on behalf of the National Dairy Council into the feeding habits of children, but I do not think that the right hon. Lady or the members of the Department who commented on it would wish to impugn the integrity of researchers of the competence and experience of Dr. Lynch and Dr. de la Paz. They interviewed 4,382 children in 21 local education authority areas, and their interim report, as the right hon. Lady said, was published in September last year.

That report revealed many gravely disturbing facts about the dietary pattern and health of our children. It said, for example—the right hon. Lady did not cite this or any of these figures—that 18 per cent. of 10 and 11-year-old children have diets deficient in calcium. This Bill, when it becomes law, will, it is estimated, increase the extent of that deficiency to 34 per cent. Further, 28 per cent. of children aged 10 and 11 have deficiencies in riboflavine. If the Bill becomes law, it will, it is estimated, increase the extent of that deficiency to 39 per cent. of all our children.

Out of the 4.300 children, only 32 per cent. had satisfactory diets; 57 per cent. had unsatisfactory diets; and 11 per cent. had extremely poor diets. This interim report should cause great concern to all of us, but not the kind of concern which was expressed in the arrogant comments last Thursday at Question Time by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost), who has left the Chamber. I see that the hon. Gentleman got into the "Sayings of the Week" in the Observer newspaper on Sunday.

Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)

Is not my right hon. Friend surprised that the Government are allowing even children up to the age of seven free school milk in view of that astounding statement by the hon. Gentleman, with which the Secretary of State had the audacity to agree; namely, that if people could not feed their own children they should not have them?

Mr. Short

That is what the hon. Gentleman said. It does not surprise me. Nothing surprises me about this Government. I think that the present schemes for both milk and dinners are on their way out.

I have talked about the results revealed in the interim report, but what should be appreciated by the right hon. Lady is that the pattern of malnutrition is changing in this country and in western countries generally. Increased affluence over the years may—indeed does—make more nutritional foods available, but we live in the age of the ad-man, so popular with the Conservative Party, the man who can sell the inferior product by persuading people that it is a superior product. That is how the Tory Government got elected. It is the ad-man who dominates our society, using modern media, highly sophisticated advertising techniques and modern psychological discoveries. People are persuaded by the adman to buy nutritionally less desirable foods. Professor Yudkin has pointed out that part of the problem of child nutrition today is "the malnutrition of affluence"—not of poverty—and it reveals itself in obesity among children, in Billy Bunters, rather than in the rickets in which it revealed itself when I was a young teacher in the 1930s.

With 800,000 unemployed, and probably 2 million of the nation's children just above the bare subsistence level under this Government, there is the 1930-type of malnutrition as well. We have the malnutrition of poverty, the inability to buy the highly nutritional foods available. The Bill leaves them completely untouched. Poverty is not one of the entitlements to free milk under the Bill, as in the case of dinners.

Mrs. Thatcher

Entitlement goes wider, to any child who has a medical need for a supply of free school milk whom the school medical officer certifies as being in need. So it goes wider than poverty.

Mr. Short

Is the right hon. Lady saying that the medical officer can use poverty as one of the criteria for deciding? That is not what the Bill says. All I am saying is that poverty in the home is not one of the two criteria for free milk under the Bill.

Let me return again to that very revealing document, "A Better Tomorrow". It says: A better tomorrow for all; for the families that are homeless … for the unemployed, for the children still in poverty. Then the Minister takes away their milk. A better tomorrow for our children who are still in poverty indeed! How cynical, how unprincipled can the Government get—putting that kind of stuff out in an election manifesto and then taking away the milk for children of seven? The right hon. Lady says that she is doing something new and grand that the Labour Government never did, enabling children to buy milk in schools.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Those who can afford it.

Mr. Short

I will tell the right hon. Lady the true position. The average family is rather more than two, but let us assume that it is two. I remind the right hon. Lady that there are 800,000 unemployed, and after what we have heard today there will be many more in the near future. If the unemployed family with two children at primary school wishes to have the milk, it will have to pay 20p, 4s., a week. That is taking the Milk Marketing Board figure of 2p. Today, in Tory Britain, hundreds of thousands of families cannot afford another 4s. a week. There is no margin at all. Four shillings a week is a fortune; it would upset the weekly budget completely.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

The Tories do not understand.

Mr. Short

No, but the Government must save this money to provide incentives for the man with more than £4,005 a year. There has never been a better example of Robin Hood in reverse, of taking money from the poor and giving it to the affluent.

The only answer to both kinds of malnutrition among children—the malnutrition of affluence and the malnutrition of poverty—is to ensure that our children get more nutritious food, and in a free society, about the only way public action can do this is by encouraging them to take more milk and nutritious, well-balanced school dinners, and it is wrong to encourage sugar-rich drinks which I understand the right hon. Lady wants to encourage, and stodgy, unsuitable, makeshift mid-day meals. We know all about those in the House. What a pity that the right hon. Lady, or the Prime Minister, did not tell the electorate last June that pop and chips were to be the staple diet for millions of our children in the "better tomorrow"!

I want to talk about another aspect of this matter—an extremely disquieting one—before I say a word about the Bill. "A Better Tomorrow" says: We will create a climate for free enterprise to expand. You're telling us! We have heard a great deal about hiving off, the sale of Thomas Cook, and so on, and the shameful payoff to the brewers for their donation to the Tory Party funds, by handling over to them the pubs in Carlisle. Has it occurred to hon. Members that what is being done in school meals and milk is a part of the same pattern, the same plan?

Clearly, the Secretary of State has set out deliberately to end the school meals service run by the local education authorities. There can be no other conclusion. The right hon. Lady shakes her head, but she confirmed to me last Thursday that it is her intention eventually to charge the economic cost for school dinners. A few weeks ago she told me that the cost was 17p., 3s. 4d. Eventually the school dinner is to cost 4s. or 5s. Does she think that anybody except the most affluent members of society will buy the school dinner at that price? She confirmed that, and told me that she had told me before that she would do it. She repeated it last Thursday. She has said that she will charge the full economic cost for school dinners. In my view, with a fair bit of experience of school dinners, that will end the service as we know it.

Now we have the ending of free milk for all, except the under-sevens. Does not this open up vast opportunities for private enterprise to step in? Of course it does. This is not very fanciful. I have in my possession a report prepared by Maynard Potts Associates, which says: That gradual withdrawal of State support for milk and meals in school could have grave consequences for the nation's children if the business world fails to recognise the opportunities being offered for participation in the services. It goes on to quote the right hon. Lady: … recently in a speech by the Secretary of State there was an invitation to education committees to combine with commercial caterers in supplying a much wider variety of meals and snacks. I missed that one. Do I understand that the right hon. Lady has invited local authorities to combine with commercial caterers?

The report goes on to make elaborate proposals about the cost of the meals, about the variety of meals, from snacks to super meals, at a variety of prices to suit a variety of pockets. That is the "better Britain", the "better tomorrow".

It then says: From the publicity point of view these proposals could be presented as an attempt to save the children of the country from the effects of the gradual disintegration of the school milk service. Goodness gracious me! The standards of morality of some sections of private enterprise leave one staggered.

It goes on to say: Financially there is a total market of some hundreds of millions of pounds … if local authorities accept a commercial solution to milk and meals in schools, they might be equally willing to consider using the same suppliers for milk and meals in the hospital service. How nice! Is that what the right hon. Lady was talking about last Thursday when she said that the whole meals service was under review—to see what other pickings there were in the schools for the friends of the Tory Party? Is that what she was talking about?

This mean, nasty little Bill is being introduced, first, to give more money to the £4,000-a-year-plus taxpayer, and second, to create more commercial opportunities for the people who finance the Tory Party. Let me deal with this Measure for a moment. I shall not discuss its details, because we shall have some weeks and months in Committee to do that.

The Bill will make the supplying of free milk by a local education authority unlawful for children over seven unless they are in a special school, or unless a medical officer of the authority signs a certificate to say that "their health requires it". There are two things that I should point out. First, only a local authority which is a local education authority is forbidden to supply free milk. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent a local authority which it not a local education authority from doing so. It follows from that that all the Inner London boroughs, the county districts, and the G.L.C., on behalf of the Outer London boroughs, may use their free penny powers under the 1963 Act—which is what the right hon. Lady was referring to—to supply free milk. That being so, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House I invite all those local authorities to continue to supply free milk after 1st September, to pay for it in that way if the Bill becomes law, and to explain to their ratepayers why they are being forced to finance it in that way.

In view of the mass of evidence about the nutritional needs and feeding habits of children, it could now surely be held that all children between the ages of 7 and 11 need this milk. I hope, therefore, that there will be found medical officers who are prepared to certify all children between the ages of 7 and 11 in their areas as being in need of milk.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office (Mr. Edward Taylor)


Mr. Short

It is shocking to stop the supply of free milk to children. I remember the speeches of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor). This is the most shocking Bill brought in by a shocking Government in their first year of office.

Mr. Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why, when the Labour Party abolished the supply of milk for all children in secondary schools, no provision of any kind was made for children who might need it on medical grounds?

Mr. Short

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to my speech, he would have known the answer to that. We consulted the committee which exists to advise the Government on this issue. The Tory Government did not do that. It is no good the right hon. Lady saying that she had consultations. She did not have consultations with the committee before announcing this Measure.

Mrs. Thatcher

We took into account the advice received informally from the Chief Medical Officer, which was confirmed by his committee on 3rd November, 1970.

Mr. Short

The right hon. Lady seems to forget that I was in her chair a year ago. I know that she invites all kinds of people into her room in Curzon Street and gets her advice from them. I am talking about the independent committee which is there to advise the Government, not about one of her paid officers.

Local authorities have been pressing the Government—if they intend to persist in this legislation—to amend it to allow them to continue to supply milk and pay for it from the rates. The right hon. Lady has refused to allow that. I wrote to ask her whether she would allow that to be done, and she replied that she would not. The Association of Education Committees has joined in. Sir William Alexander, its secretary, who is not unknown to the right hon. Lady, said: The fact that the Government has decided that it is not prepared to finance the provision of milk for children of 7 surely does not mean that it must forbid a local education authority to do so at its own expense. But that is precisely what the Government are doing. So much for a "better tomorrow."

In "A Better Tomorrow" the Government said: The Government in Whitehall is overloaded, and as a result people in the regions grow increasingly impatient about the decisions being made in London which they know could be better made locally. Under our new style of government, we will devolve government power so that more decisions are made locally. Local authorities want to decide whether to supply free milk, or not. Why does Whitehall know better than the town hall? If local authorities are prepared to go to their electors and levy a penny rate, or whatever it is, to pay for this milk, why should they not be allowed to do so?

"A Better Tomorrow" goes on to say: The independence of local authorities has been seriously eroded by Labour Ministers. On many issues, particularly in education and housing, they have deliberately overridden the views of elected councillors. We think it wrong that the balance of power between central and local government should have been distorted, and we will redress the balance and increase the independence of local authorities. I shall not embarrass the right hon. Lady by quoting all the things that she said in the same vein during the debate on Circular 10/65 and during the debate on school dinners, but, clearly, this promise to local authorities was another promise that was never meant to be taken seriously. Just how cynical can the Conservative Party get in the pursuit of power?

I end as I began. This is a thoroughly mean Bill, brought in by a thoroughly mean and discredited Government who in one short year have lost the support of the nation and are detested by fair-minded people throughout the country. They have no mandate for the Bill. There is not a word in their manifesto about withdrawing the supply of milk to young children. The Bill is a denial of the Government's electoral protestations about protecting the poor and the under-privileged. The Government's stubborn refusal to give local authorities freedom in this manner turns into yet another squalid confidence trick all their talk about freedom for local government. It is just another promise that was never meant to be taken seriously. I ask the House to reject this mean and squalid Bill.

5.10 p.m.

Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington, South)

I have listened with interest to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short). I had hoped to hear from him positive solutions to the problems of cash and health that face us. Although he weighed into the Bill, I had hoped to hear from him something more constructive.

It is likely to be true that we are faced with a nutritional problem among our schoolchildren; it would be surprising if it were not so. Children should be guided in what they consume in the light of the most recent advances of medical knowledge. We must all admit that some, and possibly a high proportion, of the milk sold for school children is not consumed by children. I am not suggesting that there is any malpractice, but one sees outside schools many milk bottles which are not empty, and this suggests that there is a need to persuade children to consume the food which it is in their best interests to consume. I willingly concede that we have a continuing health education problem, and I ask myself to what extent health education is related to the cash background of education, and how the problem should be tackled. No doubt it is a question partly of advice to parents, partly of advice to teachers and partly of supervision.

The right hon. Gentleman said that this was a little Bill, and, indeed, it covers only a tiny section of the entire welfare State, but it is of great interest to hon. Members on both sides of the House because it once again raises the question of who is paying what to whom and why. I have tried to interest the House—and I am sure I have often bored the House—in the question of the cash relationship between the individual and the State. However much we may shun this question of who is paying what to whom and why, we inevitably come back to it when considering the reform of our social services. We should try to fight our way through to a principle to be applied consistently across the board, not in one sphere or another, and there is no reason why we should not apply it to school milk.

Is the Welfare State as we wish it to be based on a cash relationship between the individual and the State, or is it based on the old-fashioned principle of truck? Should goods and services be supplied to the recipients, or should people be in a position to purchase them for themselves? In this century of the common man and of universal suffrage, the ideal relationship is one in which everybody is equal. We do not want two classes of citizens, those who are able to pay for themselves and those who are not. There are two solutions to the dilemma of two classes. Everyone can be brought down to the situation in which they have to accept truck, or everybody can be brought up into the situation where they are able to pay for themselves, and that is the right solution in the 20th century. I hope that we shall achieve one nation in which everyone is able to pay his own way. I recognise that that situation has not yet arrived and, therefore, the nation must exercise itself to assist those who are not able to meet their bills. Where will the money come from, and by what routes will it reach its destination? For instance, should the rates be the source of money for education?

The Allen Report on the Impact of Rates on Households which was published in 1965 contained the interesting comment that in 1939 the yield from rates was substantially larger than the yield from National Insurance contributions. But by the time the Allen Committee was considering the figures in the middle-1960s, rates had begun to taper off as a source of revenue, whereas National Insurance contributions were bounding upwards. The reason is that National Insurance contributions are a tax on those who are actively creating wealth at the time they pay the tax, whereas rates are a tax on all sections of the community, including those who are retired and those who are managing on relatively fixed incomes. The rates are not a buoyant source of revenue whereas, using the comparison made by the Allen Report, National Insurance contributions are buoyant.

The lesson I draw from this is that we are asking local authorities to pay for too much and we must look again at the whole question of local authority finance. Education is one of the largest items in local authorities' bills. In the Royal Borough of Kensington, part of which I have the honour to represent, the average ratepayer pays £100 a year towards the cost of education. This may be exceptional, but, if we are to find more money for the benefit of school children, it shows that it is scarcely possible to raise it from the rates.

I think my right hon. Friend would confirm that what is at the back of her mind in bringing forward the Bill is that the cash available for the benefit of children of school age is limited, and, therefore, scources of cash must be found. We need to assist local authorities. All over the country there is a sense of dissatisfaction, a sense that local authorities are not spending enough on the environment, on police and on the many things we expect local authorities to do. But we cannot ask local authorities, to increase the rates any more; they have come to a sticking point; their bills are mounting and their sources of revenue are not. I do not think that much more can be done by giving subsidies to local authorities from central Government. We must examine the bills which local authorities have to meet and remove those items which we no longer feel are necessarily the province of the local authorities.

My specific suggestion is that the cost of education should be taken away from local authorities altogether. Where, then, should that cost go? Parents should no longer be regarded as second-rate citizens who are unable to pay for what they want and, therefore, have to be issued with it in the form of truck. They should be brought to a position where they can pay for themselves. If the money is to come from the parents and not from the rates, any subsidy that is necessary will have to come from the taxpayer.

We have at least four major forms of child subsidy—and there are many minor ones. The four major ones are tax allowances in the income tax system, family allowances, family income supplements, which start in two months' time, and National Insurance assistance for families who receive assistance under the National Insurance system. These are four major systems of child income support which are largely superfluous. In saying "superfluous", I am not denying that assistance is needed; but am saying that it is not necessary to have the quadruple accounting which we now have. Education, school milk, and so on, provide yet further subsidies for children in the form of truck.

There is an element of unfairness here, in that those parents who do not draw the benefit of State education for their children are still called upon to make a contribution, although they may be struggling to find the money to pay for the education of their children themselves. I recognise that there will be hon. Gentlemen opposite who would like to see private sector education wiped out altogether, but, if they reflect, they will realise that it cannot be in the interests of education as a whole that the private sector should be wiped out. If they reflect upon this they may also realise that it would be in the best interests of the parents that they should all be first-class citizens and that all of them should be in a position to pay for their children's education.

It would be a healthy relationship in the long run between parents and teachers if the parents were paying for the services they receive and not receiving them in the form of truck. Various systems have been considered for putting parents in a position to pay their school bills. A voucher system has been canvassed. There are advantages which many have recognised but there are also disadvantages, some of which I admit have some force. There is a growing degree of examination of negative income tax, although I am not specially attracted to the schemes of negative income tax which have been canvassed in this country and the United States. There are systems of positive tax credits, tax allowances for taxpayers and so on.

It would be stretching matters too far if I were to attempt to examine these questions further under the heading of this Bill, but I was anxious to make this contribution because it would be quite wrong for this small Bill to be regarded as being aside from the whole question of the financing of the social services in future. I do not think that this Bill represents the final solution to the matter. [Interruption.] I knew that I would win agreement in the end from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not consider that it ends the matter, and from the remarks of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, it seems quite clear that it does not.

Speaking for myself, I consider it to be a step in a direction in which we must move if we are to establish parents as first-class citizens in all levels of society. It is for that reason that I shall give my support to my right hon. Friend if the House is called upon to divide.

5.22 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

May I first of all say how pleasant it is to be back in the House after my "sabbatical year." I must point out this is not a maiden speech. As one of my hon. Friends reminded me a minute ago, one cannot be a virgin twice. Because it is not a maiden speech I can be controversial; indeed, I would find it impossible to make a speech on this subject without being controversial. My main difficulty is to find parliamentary language with which to describe the Bill and to remain within the bounds of order.

Perhaps I may be non-controversial for a moment. It is appropriate that my first speech as Member of Parliament for Southampton, Itchen should be made on the subject of education because both my illustrious predecessors who sat as Members for that constituency were educationists. Older Members of the House will remember the late Ralph Morley, and I know that he, had he been here today, would have been on his feet about this Bill because if anyone fought for children anywhere it was Ralph Morley, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) knows. My immediate predecessor, Lord Maybray-King, whom I remember as a member of Hampshire County Council, fighting on the education committee of that council for improved conditions for children, also has a great love of children.

I can only describe this Bill as mean and despicable. If the right hon. Lady will look behind her for a moment perhaps she can say where all those young, decent, liberal Tories who used to take part in the education debates in the last Parliament have gone? They are conspicuous by their absence. Quite a large number of her hon. Friends will be reluctant to go through the Lobby tonight in support of the Bill. Most of what I wanted to say has been said in an excellent speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central but there are one or two points I wish to emphasise.

The first thing that worries me is the provision in the Bill whereby those who are classified by a medical officer of health as being in need of milk are entitled to receive free milk.

I was watching the right hon. Lady on television one Sunday evening last year trying to explain away how it is possible for children not to know that a child is having free school meals. She came up with this absurd idea of a child putting money into an envelope, handing it over to a teacher and the teacher handing it back with the same coins in it. As a teacher, I have never heard such nonsense. If she really thinks that this sort of thing can occur and that it can be kept from other children, then she does not know anything about children and schools.

If some child is to have free milk it will be classified as a sick or sickly child, and children, particularly young children can be very cruel, albeit unintentionally. They will see someone having free school milk and say "You must be sick."

I remember in the last Parliament speeches coming from the then Opposition, accusing the then Government of taking away freedom from local authorities. Yet this Bill contains a Clause which expressly forbids local authorities from providing free school milk if they wish to do so. My local authority is Tory-controlled, and so it would probably not want to, but there are some education authorities which would be only too pleased to pay for school milk out of the rates. If ever there was a Measure reducing the power of local authorities to do what they want to do according to local conditions, then this is it.

Local conditions do arise here. It is probably more important that free milk should be maintained for children in certain areas of the North and other industrial areas than in some other parts of the country. There may be medical evidence to support this. If so, let us have a compromise. Let us say that those local authorities which wish to continue paying to provide free school milk may do so. I see no objection to this. I hope that the Government will give way on this, at least. In the last year, at school and at home, I have watched this Government make one blunder after another, but I think that this is the silliest and meanest act of all. It is significant that the first piece of educational legislation in this Parliament is a Measure to take away school milk.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

Let me begin by saying something to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) which may shock him.

If I had to approach this question without any preconceptions I would be in favour of free school milk and free meals to all children in all State schools. I very much wish that when we created our education service we had done exactly that. I would like to see State schools run, in that respect anyway, on very much the same basis as the public schools. The public schools undertake to feed the children and they send the bill to the parents. They do not attempt to put any charge upon meals or milk at the point of consumption. Ideally this is how I should like to see our State education system run. But we do not run it on that basis. We run it on a basis which makes every Opposition speech to which I have listened reek of humbug.

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) made a speech which reached a new depth in humbug, and I wish not simply to say so but to point out why I say so. The root fact which underlies this debate—and the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, who was Secretary of State for Education and Science, should know this—is that we can spend a certain sum on education. That sum is necessarily limited. I suppose it is about £2,500 million a year. Whatever sum we spend on education is bound to be limited. The question must therefore be asked: how can we most effectively allocate this limited sum? If we take from it money to spend on school meals we shall necessarily be able to spend less on other things. If we spend more money on school meals, we must spend less on school buildings or teachers' salaries.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

By what is expenditure on education limited?

Mr. Curran

It is limited by precisely the same limitation which applies to every other form of public expenditure—by how rich the country is and how much it can afford to spend on schools, pensions, roads, hospitals or any of the other things on which we spend money. It is idle for us to talk as though the amount of money available for education is limited.

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central should have a firm grasp of that fact. He should know better than most of us that the amount of money available for education is limited. He should face more readily than the rest of us the question of the most effective method of using this limited sum. Is it better to use it by increasing the amount of money which we allocate to school meals and milk, or is it better to spend more on teachers' salaries? The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that we cannot have it both ways. If we spend more in one direction, we must spend less in another.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Why not knock £9 million off the cost of Concorde, for example?

Mr. Curran

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central made a comparison of that kind to which I want to refer later.

It is always possible—this is elementary, and we as politicians know it—to say, whatever choice is made in spending money, that a different choice should have been made. Anyone can say, "You should not have done that; you should have done this." That has been the substance of many debates in the House, and no doubt it will be the substance of many more. But we should ignore that sort of debating society argument. I do not employ it, and I hope that nobody else will employ it.

What is the best way of spending the £2,500 million which we spend on education? Is it better to increase the amount which we allocate to school milk and meals? Before anybody says "Yes", he must face the consequence, which is to reduce the allocations made to other things. There is no escape from that, but the right hon. Gentleman completely ignored it. If he wishes to interrupt, perhaps I can tempt him to do so. We are spending a certain amount of money on school milk and meals. I should like us to spend more. I should like us to spend enough to make school milk and meals free to all children in State schools. How much would it cost? I put that question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State only last week. The answer was £275 million a year.

Mr. Marks

Sixpence off income tax!

Mr. Curran

I suppose that the point, if that is the right word, of the Opopsi-tion's argument is that it is wrong to charge anything for school milk and meals. The underlying assumption is that school milk and meals should be free. Nobody said so, and certainly the Labour Government never dreamed of making them free. But now that the Labour Party is in opposition it is prepared to talk in this way.

I want the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central to answer a plain question. If he believes that we should spend £275 million, which we are not spending now, on making milk and meals in schools free, in what area of educational expenditure does he suggest we should economise? Would he take it off teachers' salaries or school buildings? It is idle for him to argue the one unless he is prepared to answer the other, and anyone who has been a Minister should not debate in that fashion.

Mr. Edward Short

I said nothing about £275 million. This Bill aims at saving £9 million. It will impose a charge on the farmers of £5 million. Therefore, we are talking of resources of about £4 million. Anything else is out of order.

Mr. Curran

I was asking the right hon. Gentleman to face the point of principle underlying this debate.

Mr. Short

What does the hon. Gentleman know about principle?

Mr. Curran

The right hon. Gentleman, with his usual courtesy and assumption of moral superiority, seems to be determined to leave Mr. Pecksniff nowhere when it comes to debating and chooses to be discourteous while sitting down. His assumption of moral superiority is nothing less than humbug. I do not regard him as being competent to lay down the law about ethics or behaviour. He has no qualification for doing so.

Sir G. Nabarro

Hear, hear.

Mr. Curran

We on this side are just as honest—and perhaps I might even go so far as to say as intelligent—as the right hon. Gentleman. He has no right to assume that he has a monopoly of moral feeling or of compassion about children. Equally he has no right to evade the question of principle and substance which underlies this debate.

It is proposed by the Bill to save a certain amount on school milk and meals—about £38 million a year. The question which I have put to the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central applies just as much to this limited sum of £38 million as it does to the sum of £275 million. If he says it is wrong to save £38 million by these measures, would he tell us where he would save £38 million in other areas of educational expenditure? Would he knock £38 million off school building? Would he knock it off teachers' salaries? I say again, he really must, as anyone having been a Minister of Education ought to, be prepared to face the financial realities of the matter. So long as the amount of money which is available for education is limited, every Minister of Education must ask, "What is the most effective way in which I can spend it? What is the most effective way, from the standpoint of the children, in which I can spend it?"

Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

The hon. Gentleman must really come to the issue. He said, first, that he believes that all children should have free milk in schools. I leave aside the question of meals. If he really believes that, he cannot argue that because all children cannot have it we should take it away from the over 7 and 8-year-olds. I want to come to what is really his main argument. His right hon. Friend has never said that this Bill is introduced because the Chancellor has given her a limited amount of money. It is being introduced because the Government want to reduce taxation by reducing unnecessary public expenditure. Therefore the hon. Gentleman must address himself to this question, if he believes in free milk for everybody and free meals to children under 11 years old: what unnecessary public expenditure ought to be saved in order to reward the surtax payers?

Mr. Curran

The hon. Gentleman has really not seized the point. I think my right hon. Friend is entitled to make certain assumptions that we understand certain things and, therefore, she is not required at every stage of her argument to spell out everything in words of one syllable, and, therefore, is not required to state that a Minister of Education has only a limited amount of money to spend on education. Does that really require to be asserted or to be proved? Always the amount of money to spend on education is limited. It is bound to be limited. My right hon. Friend has to face the question, as her predecessor had to face the question: "With this limited sum available, in which way shall I spend it? Is it better to increase the amount we spend on school milk or school meals?" If she replies, "Yes, it is", then she is bound to diminish the amount of money she has to spend in other areas of education.

What I have been trying to do, so far with a complete lack of success, is to discover from the Opposition, and in par- ticular from the right hon. Gentleman, in what areas of education he would engage in cuts. Where would he make them? Unless he is prepared to face that, all those assertions about children and milk, and all this attempt to appeal to our feelings, are completely beside the point. They do not really bear at all upon the argument in which we are engaged.

The Minister is entitled to say, "I have this limited global sum available to me, and I am going to distribute it in the way which, in my judgment, is best for the children." She may be wrong—certainly, any judgment of this kind is always open to argument—but my right hon. Friend is at least entitled to credit for making the judgment which she regards as the right one. She knows, as we all know, that any such judgment is always open to criticism, and to the criticism that it is wrong.

Mr. Fred Evans

Surely, the judgment was made not by the right hon. Lady but by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When he took sixpence off the income tax he had to get it back from the kids. This is the argument. If he had not done that none of this would have happened.

Mr. Curran

This, of course, is a classic example of what we call the false equation, the oldest device in all the history of demogoguery. It has been going on for a couple of thousand years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central employed it, and now another hon. Gentleman over there is taking it up. This is the oldest of all the stock devices open to the rabble rouser, who selects a certain amount of money and purports to compare it with another sum of money whether or not the two sums have any connection at all; in such an argument that consideration does not arise at all. The question which has to be faced here is not a demogogic question about changes in taxation. The question which has got to be faced here is that with a global sum of £2,500 million, which is approximately what we now allocate to education, a larger sum than ever before allocated to education, how, in her judgment, does my right hon. Friend consider that it is best to spend it? Is it better to spend a larger proportion on all the things which need to be done in our schools and a smaller proportion on cheap meals? That is what the debate is about.

It is not enough for the Opposition to say that it is wrong to save £38 million in the way it is proposed to save it unless they are prepared to go on and say how else they would save £38 million—whether they would knock it off teachers' salaries or school buildings. Unless they are prepared to tell us that, I suggest that the whole attack we are getting from the Opposition is intellectually dishonest, and it comes with particular dishonesty from the right hon. Gentleman who was Minister of Education, because when he was Minister of Education he had to make precisely these choices. He knows, even if his back bench supporters do not know, that every Minister has to make them. He made them. So did his Labour predecessors when they faced the question which my right hon. Friend faces now. They took the action which they are rather anxious that we should now forget. They were perfectly willing to abolish free milk in secondary schools. Did anybody attack that? They were perfectly willing to increase the price of school meals.

Sir G. Nabarro

Yes, it was attacked at the time. I will not weary the House by reading out the appropriate passages because I hope later on to catch the eye of the Chair, but on 20th February, 1968, the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury tried very hard to justify the withdrawal of free milk in secondary schools, and he used the term "reluctantly" on several occasions and made great play with nutritional grounds and associated matters. It was, of course, attacked from the Labour benches. It was not attacked by the Tories for reasons which I hope to give later on, but it was heavily attacked from the Labour benches, and that underlines twice over the gross hypocrisy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short).

Mr. Curran

Of course, the Labour Party behaves in one way when in power and acts in a completely different way when it is not in power. As my hon. Friend has reminded me, it does not lie in the mouth of any Labour Member to criticise my right hon. Friend, because the Labour Party in office did about school milk and school meals exactly the things which we are now told are intolerable and outrageous and which no Government should do.

I therefore urge my right hon. Friend to base herself upon the financial realities. I do not suppose it gives her any great pleasure to suggest, any more than it gives me pleasure to support, this proposal. I get no particular pleasure from supporting it, I say at once. None at all. I get no particular pleasure from supporting any increase in charges for school meals or any interference with the supply of milk to schools. None whatever. If we are faced with the question, as we are, "Shall we do this, or shall be make economies elsewhere in education?"—and that is the question—then I am prepared to say, with reluctance, that I will support this Bill.

My right hon. Friend is entitled to demand an answer from her critics to the question, "If this method of allocating the money is wrong, please tell me how I should allocate it and where I should cut expenditure?" Unless the critics are prepared to answer that—and so far they have shrunk from doing so—I invite my right hon. Friend to ignore the attacks as being empty and fraudulent.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would my hon. Friend permit me to intervene before he sits down?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

May I ask the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) whether he has concluded his speech?

Mr. Curran

I was giving way to my hon. Friend.

Sir G. Nabarro

I am, as always, deeply grateful for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to assist the admirable case put forward by my hon. Friend by drawing his attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 26th February, 1967, which deals with Clause 3 of the Public Expenditure and Receipts Bill in relation to school milk. The then hon. Member for Reading, Mr. John Lee, moved the following Amendment: Provided that in no case shall the provisions of this subsection apply to a pupil whose parent or guardian or other responsible person is in receipt of unemployment benefit or has been in such receipt at any time during the past twelve months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1048.] If ever there was an admirable case for discriminatory treatment on behalf of the needy, I suggest that the parents are in this situation, and that this surely should have been conceded by the Labour Government at the time. On the contrary, the then Under-Secretary of State rejected the Amendment—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I realise that the hon. Gentleman has the Floor of the House, but I am sure he will agree with me that it is customary to make interventions as short as possible, especially as he has said he hopes to catch my eye later.

Sir G. Nabarro

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have quoted that passage, and I hope that my hon. Friend will carry on from there, since it underlines the crass and gross hypocrisy of the Labour Party.

Mr. Curran

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) thinks that it is necessary for me to dwell on the point, but it seems to me that by this stage the hypocrisy of the Labour Party has become as plain to see as Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square. My hon. Friend may be right, and I defer to him. He may well think it desirable and necessary to reiterate the hypocrisy which we are seeing in this present attack. It is certainly blatant hypocrisy, and the Labour Party has no moral ground on which to stand in this debate. This Bill is an exercise in choice of expenditure; that is its root cause. Anybody who says that this choice is wrong should be prepared to say what, in his view, is the right one. He should spell out what, other than school milk and school meals, he thinks should be a candidate for economy. Until we get an answer to that question, I invite my right hon. Friend to take no notice of the Opposition because they have not an intellectually respectable case.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) and also the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) have both made interesting financial comments. The hon. Member for Kensington, South said that this was a matter of who was paying what to whom, and where. The hon. Member for Uxbridge said that it was a question of the choice of expenditure and that the Opposition should make clear what we would take out of education. This sort of exercise is unnecessary. This is a question of children and their milk and whether we are wise to stop the free issue of milk in school. We must examine whether it is wise both financially and in terms of an investment in our future to take this step. I believe that it is not wise to do so.

I was once teaching a class of children in the city of Manchester and thought I had them spell-bound with a lesson concerning a fascinating piece of local history. The class seemed attentive and the children looked at the maps and pictures which I had produced and appeared to take it all in. At the end of the lesson I asked whether anybody had any questions, and a small boy at the front said, "Yes, sir, can we have us milk?" That lesson has stayed with me for a long time—not my lesson, but the boy's lesson to me. It is a pity that many people who support this Bill have not had the experience of taking a class of pupils since they would then know why the teachers' organisations are so against the Government on this matter.

What was the starting point for this Bill? Was it an examination of the nutritional effects of the daily third of a pint? Did the medical officers come to the conclusion that a third of a pint was too much and was harmful to children? Was it the effect that milk was having on the teeth and bones of our young children? Has this been harmful? Of course, it has not. In fact, the starting point of this Bill lies in the Government's decision to cut income tax by sixpence and to cut corporation tax. Cuts have to be made and this mean, messy, miserable Measure is one of the cuts that has to come.

It is not a question of finance or even one of poverty. I doubt whether the dietary condition of a great many of our people warrants the taking of such a step at this time. We have not even been told the amount of saving to be expected—although the right hon. Lady told us that she—together with the local authorities—expects to save £9 million a year. This amounts to about 0.1 of an old penny in relation to income tax and that amount will be cut for the present year and in future years.

The worst piece of hypocrisy appears in Clause 1(2) of the Bill under which the local education authorities are forbidden to provide free milk for the over-sevens and to find the money from the rates. Only five weeks ago a new council was elected in Manchester, following a revision of the ward boundaries by the former Tory majority in an effort to prevent Labour from taking control in the area. The whole council came up for election and Labour made education its first issue of campaign policy. Free school milk for every primary school child was a major point in its policy. The Labour Party printed its promise in capital letters in heavy type in its manifesto. It made the promise that this would be done out of the rates if the Government were too mean to help in the rate support grant.

The result of that election was that 81 Labour councillors were elected and 18 Conservatives. This happened in a city where the Conservatives had held power for four years. Never before had the Labour Party in that city polled more than 50 per cent. of total votes. In that election the Labour vote was over 60 per cent. Thus, a Labour council was elected on a pledge to provide free school milk in primary schools. That pledge, contrary to the Prime Minister's pledge on prices, was meant to be taken seriously.

Ten days after that election this Bill was published. The right hon. Lady, not herself satisfied with being mean and stingy, insists that local education authorities must act in the same way. This comes from a Minister who is always talking about local authorities knowing what is best for their own areas. The right hon. Lady said this in the debate on the Queen's Speech, and often dodges Questions in the House by saying that various issues are matters for local authorities. It looks as if she believes that local education authorities know best for their own area only when they happen to agree with her.

Last Wednesday the Manchester Education Committee passed the following resolution: That this committee (a) notes with interest and approval the following statements of the Government's views contained in the White Paper on Local Government in England which was presented to Parliament in February 1971: 'The Government are determined to return power to those people who should exercise decisions locally and to ensure that local government is given every opportunity to take that initiative and responsibility effectively, speedily and with vigour … A genuine local democracy implies that decisions should be taken—and should be seen to be taken—as locally as possible.' (b) In the spirit of these intentions the committee calls on the Government to show their good faith by permitting local education authorities who so wish to continue to supply milk free of charge to all primary school children. That resolution was carried unanimously in the Manchester Education Committee by Labour, Conservative and co-opted members, and included a number of well-known educationists not members of the Labour Party. I urge the Secretary of State to do what they ask. She says that this cannot be done because such an argument would be used in dealing with rate support grant. Of course it can be done. This particular expenditure could be excepted from arguments on rate support grant.

I urge her to go further and to get rid of the Bill altogether. It is a bad Bill, its motives are wrong and its results will be bad. The Secretary of State should stand up to the Treasury and say that she is not prepared to do this. It is not a question whether we should cut something else in education. It is a question of arguments in the Cabinet; this is where these matters take place. This will be the first piece of legislation the right hon. Lady has presented to Parliament. I hope she is proud of it.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

Such is the intensity of feeling on this subject on the Opposition benches that only 12 opposition Members are here tonight to put forward their case.

Mr. James Hamilton

On a point of order. Is it in order for such a statement to be made by the hon. Gentleman when we know that many Labour Members who are deeply concerned with this debate are at this moment upstairs discussing the demise of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilding Company?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

There is nothing out of order in what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Cooper

I can understand the sensitivity of the hon. Gentleman who has just intervened, but he has only to look back through HANSARD over the last 12 months to see that this has been a sort of pattern of events when these great social issues have been raised. During the last four years of Labour Government expenditure on education actually decreased [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, because in terms of real money there was a decrease in educational expenditure.

We listened to the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) make a dreary and pedestrian speech—it was a speech from somebody who over the years was a dreary and pedestrian Minister of Education. If we are to be chided with not being in touch with teachers, education authorities and pupils, let me make my own position clear. I was a member of the Ilford Eduction Committee in 1936 and from then on, until I resigned from the council in 1952 having been elected to this House, I was the chairman of most of its committees. I suggest that it cannot be laid at my door that I know nothing about the educational matters.

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central and many other Labour Members—though I do not label them all with this fault—have a soup kitchen mentality. Everybody has got to have the same, no matter what the income. We have to pile up public money to help everybody whether rich or poor. Our philosophy is different. [Interruption.] If I were the hon. Gentleman I should be quiet for a few moments and possess myself in patience.

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

Put that brief down and get on with it.

Mr. Cooper

It is in my own writing. Our philosophy for many years has been to help those in greatest need. We think that it is ridiculous that people earning between £3,000 and £5,000 a year should be in receipt of subsidies. [Laughter.] Hon. Members seem to think that that is ridiculous. Do they not think that there should be tax relief? The Labour Government increased taxes by more than £3,000 million. This is the prime reason why we are in this situation today. In one year the Conservative Government have reduced taxes by £1,000 million. Are hon. Members saying that that is wrong?

Mr. Armstrong

It is if it is done at the expense of milk for seven-year-olds. The hon. Gentleman said that the philosophy of the Tory Party is to help those who are in need. What Clause of the Bill says that people whose parents cannot afford milk shall receive milk?

Mr. Cooper

Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Concannon

Answer the question.

Mr. Cooper

I will answer the question in my own way. The Bill will allow free milk to be given to all children up to seven. Under the Finance Bill families with more than one child will receive an additional family allowance of £40. This is a considerable achievement.

Hon. Members opposite have charged that this year's Budget was a rich man's Budget. The vast majority of people are middle and lower middle-class people with one to four children who will benefit more by the additional £40 allowance than any other section of the community.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Before we get too far along these lines I must point out that we are discussing a very important but fairly narrow Bill. I hope that the hon. Member will not roam over the whole field of taxation as it affects people.

Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I hope to catch your eye later in the debate I should be grateful if you would give me your guidance. Did not my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on 30th March last make an announcement in regard to welfare meals and milk in schools? Although the Bill is a very narrow one, it is essentially one which derives from the Budget Statement. Therefore, on Second Reading cannot we have a little latitude in discussing this important Measure in the wider context of taxation and fiscal arrangements generally.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is quite fair in pointing that out, provided that the House adheres to what he said. However, it should be an argument and not the main theme of the speech. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) will understand that and abide by it.

Mr. Kinnock

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be correct to say that you will permit latitude as long as it is not said with too great a longitude?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

As a master mariner I should say that that is about right.

Mr. Cooper

I was led away by the sheer hypocrisy of hon. Members opposite. They talk about free milk in schools when it was they who in the Public Expenditure and Receipts Act, 1968, discontinued the provision of milk for children in secondary schools. We are now asked to find agreeable the criticisms they make of this Measure.

Mr. Marks

The hon. Gentleman seems to be addressing his remarks in my direction. I opposed my own Government and voted against them on the issue of secondary school milk. As he has been a member of an education committee for so long he should do that this afternoon against his own Government.

Mr. Cooper

It would be nice if I could get two sentences without interruption.

Sir G. Nabarro

I will not interrupt my hon. Friend.

Mr. Cooper

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Everybody in the country will agree that, if it were possible to give free milk to everybody, it would be beneficial. The basic truth is that we have a certain amount of money available. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) was at the Department of Education and Science in the days of the Labour Government and she knows full well the restrictions that apply to Government Departments and how they cannot have all the money that they want to spend. Taxation cannot be raised in Britain or in any other country beyond a certain level. The Government must decide how best to spend the money which is available and to what level of taxation they can go in raising the money.

At the same time as these charges are being imposed, wages and salaries are increasing and the nation is better housed, better clother and better few than ever it was. I do not claim the credit for this on behalf of the Conservative Government after only one year of government. This is the natural evolution which occurs in a free society. If it had not been for the mess we inherited we would have been much further on the road than we are.

The constituency of the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck), who questioned my right hon. Friend during her speech, has almost the highest proportion of colour televisions and motorcars for what can be regarded as a semi-working-class area. People cannot buy or rent colour television sets and buy cars and at the same time say that they cannot spend 15p a month on milk.

Any Government can give money away. The problem is to spend the money more wisely. This is what we are trying to do. We want new schools and more teachers. In this context the record of the Labour Government was deplorable. We need more hospitals and more nurses. I could go on and on citing the nation's needs. The money must come from us and from nobody else. The Labour Party is not prepared honestly to say that once again it would increase taxation by £3,000 million in a four-year Parliament if ever it were returned to power. The Labour Party will fight an election at any time on a mandate of specious promises. If it succeeded it would do nothing.

The Bill is a small Bill. It makes in a small way funds available for other purposes. It is to be commended to the House.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, West)

This has been a sad and cold day. It started with clobbering the Clyde. It has continued with clobbering the kids.

The House will sympathise with me when I say that I do not have to listen to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) only in the Chamber. He referred to his being on a local council. That was at Ilford and I served with the hon. Gentleman and was on the same education committee and had to listen to similar speeches in those days. The hon. Gentleman started his speech today by calling attention to the small number of people in the House. He knows full well that there are only four Tory back benchers present now.

Today I listened to the third speech that I have heard the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) make since 1959. I read his material at other times. I am surprised to find that he is just as woolly in writing as he is in speaking.

The arguments which have been advanced today have been, so to speak, balanced on the top of a milk bottle on as wide a range as possible. Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, did not condone the debate's going too wide, but hon. Members have succeeded to the extent that it looked at one time as if we could discuss literally the whole taxation system.

The House knows that I tend to speak only on health matters. In this debate I must immediately declare two interests. First, I am the Member for Willesden, West, which is part of the London Borough of Brent which in the last four years became notorious, both nationally and internationally, for the policies it pursued. Fortunately, we were able to change that pattern recently, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) in his part of the world.

My borough is especially anxious to use its rate facilities to remedy the grave damage which can be done in a child's life and health and it wishes to have protective rather than curative medicine. This is what the Bill is all about. One of the most difficult tasks we have had in local government and in the National Health Service is in moving away from the curative to a preventive service.

No doubt later in the debate the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) will address us in his tutti-frutti voice.

Sir G. Nabarro

The hon. Gentleman has got it all wrong. Tutti-frutti is a variety of ice cream. That would be the last possible description to be applied to my voice.

Mr. Pavitt

It is weak and soft, sacchariny, and rather difficult to consume. I grant the hon. Gentleman immediately that if he will read further into HANSARD he will find that I made a speech on the date that he mentioned. Some of us on this side have consistently opposed any retraction from the comprehensive approach of the nutritional values of food and milk during the whole period of a child's education. However, that process is being engaged in today. We had reluctantly reached the end under the last Government: we did not intend to go further. This Government are now trying to take the process further.

My second interest is that I am a Cooperative Member, and together with one and a half million other Londoners am a member of the London Co-operative Society. We have a large milk business. In fact, we are probably the largest distributors of milk in London. However, I do not speak for that interest this afternoon.

I concentrate on health grounds, but I charge the right hon. Lady with gross neglect of the essential educational function of a free milk supply to our children throughout their formative years.

The milk habit and the practical provision of meals are probably the most valuable means of getting the right balance into the diet of growing children. Far more effective than any classroom instruction is the kind of habit engendered in the past by the way that we have been able to deliver these services.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short), in his comprehensive speech, pointed to Report No. 120 of the Department of Health and Social Security which stated that from seven to nine years of age it was essential that a child should have a pint of milk a day because this one food comprises 6 per cent. calories, 13 per cent. protein, 50 per cent. calcium, 25 per cent. Vitamin A and 30 per cent. Riboflavin. The stabilisation of a youngster's diet is therefore available from this one solitary rather magic fluid. The absence of milk does not of necessity mean that the youngster's diet falls short in an affluent society, but we throw away the certainty of children having it for the hazard that they may not.

My second indictment of the right hon. Lady is that, after consulting several nutritional experts, she is gambling on the unknown. She knows it, because in her speech she outlined plans to monitor to see what is to happen. She does not know the effects of the changes. Therefore, she will stop the supply first and measure the effect afterwards. I hope that she will completely revise her announcement about monitoring. I feel sure that she has had advice, but she could take further advice and have a more effective monitoring scheme.

We want to know more than the three areas mentioned by the right hon. Lady. How will the monitoring be conducted? What machinery will be used? Will the Medical Research Council be brought into play? How will the monitoring take place? Even if she revises and improves it, surely it will still take place after the event.

We know the evidence from the past. I should like to quote from an excellent document, "Family diets before and after the war", which I am sure the right hon. Lady has seen, which states: The most important single contribution to improvement of the diet of working-class families during the past generation was the provision of welfare foods, especially welfare and school milk. Such provision had begun before the war; Table 7 shows the extent to which households in the Carnegie Survey sample already depended on welfare schemes to meet their needs. So it goes on. I will not weary the House with a lot of figures. The charts show that there is a drop in nutritional value as the family gets larger. In all the charts of intake one sees a steady decline where the unemployment factor comes into consideration and in areas where large numbers of people are on low incomes. Secondly, there is a sharp fall which increases according to the number of children in a family. These figures significantly go back over the last 40 years to show that the pattern has not altered in these two areas which I have mentioned.

In 1947 the American Public Health Association presented the Lasker Award to the two British Ministries of Food and Health. The citation includes this passage: Although almost all other environmental factors which might influence public health deteriorated under the stress of war, the public health in Great Britain was maintained and in many respects improved…. In the opinion of the Lasker Awards Committee this has been one of the greatest demonstrations in public health administration that the world has ever seen. The Lasker Awards Committee of the American Public Health Association therefore takes great satisfaction in recommending awards … to the four great leaders in this historic enterprise, Lord Woolton. Sir Jack Drummond. Sir Wilson Jameson, and Sir John Boyd Orr. As a Socialist, I have no great love for the activities of Lord Woolton, but he was the type of Conservative who came in after 1945 and rehabilitated the shattered Conservative Party. However, as part of his approach, especially as Minister of Food, he had an understanding of the type of problem which we are discussing which does not seem to exist among members of the Conservative Party today. We have gone back not just to the war and post-war years, but to the last century with the kind of thinking which has been presented to us today.

Still on medical evidence, the best and most widely accepted indices of the general health in children is their growth and development. We can see what happened in the past as a pointer to the future if this miserable Bill goes through. The average height of school children between the ages of eight and 12 between 1930 and 1933—the depression years—dropped because of the factors referred to in the Report and which I mentioned previously. Since 1945 there has been a constant acceleration. However, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office, might like to note what is happening in Scotland. The upward trend going on in England and Wales seems to have stopped in Scotland. It would be interesting to know whether the 8.5 per cent. unemployment on Clydeside and the high level of unemployment in Scotland generally has led to the halt in the growth of school children in Scotland. This is obviously the kind of matter on which research is needed, because this is a significant factor.

Mr. Edward Taylor

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, because of the provisions under current legislation, school children in Scotland will have free milk provided for an extra year compared with children in England and Wales. That is because Scottish children tend to leave the primary schools a year later. How does the hon. Gentleman square that with what he has been saying?

Mr. Pavitt

In this way. I am giving the facts. This is the kind of question to which I hope the hon. Gentleman will address himself when he replies. The argument put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite and by the right hon. Lady is that the taking away of free school milk makes no difference because nutritional values are being supplied in other ways. If the argument is that in Scotland milk is still to be available, that disposes of the argument that there will be a general balanced diet which will enable the growth and development of children to continue. I hope that we shall get more information about this matter. At the moment we have none.

It is significant that the difference between the growth and height of children between the ages of nine and 13 varies according to different social classes. I concede that it is not only a question of milk, but the whole question of the balance of the child's diet. It seems, in the light of the right hon. Lady's speech, that we are to have differences not only between classes because of different nutritional standards and values but between the sick and the well. The local school medical officer will be able to separate the sick sheep from the healthy goats to decide again a breaking down of the entity which it is every teacher's ambition to build up in a classroom.

I am delighted that the medical officer of health or the school medical officer in the London Borough of Brent may be able to declare all our children to be in need of—and to have—milk. I hope that this mean provision in Clause 1 will not apply to the London Borough of Brent.

Malnutrition, to which most hon. Members have referred, was yesterday's problem. The problem today is obesity. I will not weary the House with the figures for rickets and the deficiency diseases over the years. That is not the problem we are facing today. Obesity is the problem facing us today, and that is a killer. Obesity starts when the baby is first being suckled. Mothers tend to want big fat babies, and then the consuming habits of childhood start. In areas like Willesden many children seem to eat lots of carbohydrates—buns and chips. "Chips with everything" is the order of the day. Inevitably, we are reaching the stage where obesity-through-eating habits form while the child is still at school and carry through to the stage where it can be a contributory factor for coronary thrombosis. There were about 30,000 cases of coronary thrombosis last year concerning people over the age of 45. So, within this small Bill, apart from the provision of milk for children over seven, many wider health factors are involved.

In planning reducing diets for overweight children, every school medical officer of health relies on a regular intake of milk. He knows that, provided the child is getting the milk, he can make other dietary provisions to reduce obesity. Milk provides a quarter to a third of the child's requirement of protein, so he can reduce that. It provides all his calcium so he can cut that out, and it supplies three-quarters of his Vitamin B2, which is essential. There is some evidence, for example in the Minister of Agriculture's National Food Survey that the amount of milk taken in term time is not the same as the home consumption in the school holidays. The right hon. Lady will have studied that report.

I have some figures collected from my own locality, and I am fortunate here since I am a Co-operative Member and the largest amount of milk is provided by co-operative societies. In London, in June, 4,488,879 gallons of milk were provided, in August that went down to 3,973,147. In June nearly 250,000 gallons were provided in London, in other words, 231,596 in school milk. But in my area of Willesden, which is a strong industrial working-class area, the 93,000 gallons of milk supplied in June had dropped by August to a total of 78,000. Of course, a good deal of this is accounted for by people being away on holiday, but of the 93,000 gallons, 7,505 gallons supplied in June in school milk disappeared during the school holidays in August.

So, if Brent wants a clear case, I hope that it will use these figures and I hope that my borough council has the courage of George Lansbury, when he was Member for Poplar. When he found that it was impossible to accept the rules of a Tory Government on the welfare laws operated by the board of guardians, he was prepared to go—and went—to prison. If this law is broken by my council, as it is represented in Clauses 1 and 2—I suppose I must not incite them to break the law—my sympathy would be with them.

The hon. Member for Uxbridge used one of the oldest tricks in politics. First he made the £9 million up to £275 million by making all milk and food free and then he demolished the case by saying £275 million was too much. The hon. Member for Ilford, South did the same. He is a politician of the old school and he knows his stuff very well. He did the same sort of thing by first putting up an Aunt Sally and then knocking it down.

I object to the concept from the Conservative Party that each individual Department must be self-contained and able to provide its own economies. For the first time in our history, we are spending more on education than on defence, but it is not right that, when we extend the education service, we should seek to get the children themselves to make the necessary economies to find increased expenditure. I object, in a similar way, to charges being made on the sick to provide resources for the National Health Service. There are other means of doing it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, showed how precisely equated was the amount of money being saved by this Bill and upon welfare meals to the £38 million concession to those earning over £4,000 a year.

This Bill is putting the clock back two generations. I had the pleasure of going with the Secretary of State to a number of places in Sweden and we saw some very worthwhile evidence of social and economic progress. We have until recently been keeping pace with Sweden, or trying to. But in Sweden not only school milk but all school meals are quite free from the time a child starts until he finishes at the age of 18 or 19. This has been worth while because, in Sweden, they know that a healthy and virile nation is an asset.

When will the Government learn that it is not public exenditure on children's education or their health. It is an investment—the safest gilt-edged security that Britain could have. If we throw out this miserable Bill today, it will be one of the best things that we could do to preserve a very good investment in Britain's future.

6.34 p.m

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

This Bill has been variously described over the last few hours as a mean Bill, a wretched Bill, a miserable Bill and a nasty Bill—

Mr. Pavitt

A horrible Bill.

Sir G. Nabarro

The hon. Gentleman says "a horrible Bill". I can support none of those descriptions of this Measure, which is exactly consonant with Conservative policy. It is a highly desirable Measure, which will have my utmost support for all the reasons which I propose to enunciate.

I summed up my philosophy in the matter of welfare milk in a supplementary question to the Minister of Agriculture a few months ago, when he was being assaulted by Labour Members for the alleged reduction in the service of school meals and the amount of welfare milk being consumed. I counselled my right hon. Friend on that occasion to advise the community to spend less in the boozers and more on the kids.

This remark of mine was described by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) in inaccurate terms—I corrected him—and so interested were Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Tyneside generally in the metaphor which I had employed that they had a banner headline in their local paper reporting it. The B.B.C. asked me to say why I had insulted Geordie workers, and interpreted it as a parochial reference to Tynemouth and the North-East.

Of course, it applies to the whole nation. Far too much money is spent in the boozers instead of on the kids. This is exactly the philosophy related by my right hon. Friend in answering Questions last Thursday, that working mothers, although they may be doing full-time jobs in factories and elsewhere, are well capable by themselves, without Government support or guidance, of looking after the nutritional requirements of their children. Indeed, it would be impertinent for the Government to intervene on the nutritional requirements of those children.

Personally, I love milk. I consume alcohol hardly at all, but two pints of milk per day has been my habit for many years past. [Laughter.] I am sorry to have caused hilarity behind me—

Mr. Curran

I was expressing admiration, Gerald.

Sir G. Nabarro

Yes, I have a splendid figure to show for it. I do not suffer from any of the obesity mentioned by the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt). A matter of 160 lb. avoirdupois stripped off—which is much more satisfactory than the figure of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain)—

Mr. Speaker

We are getting into a physical area now, but I wonder what both hands in the pockets is intended to signify.

Sir G. Nabarro

Both hands in the pockets was meant, at that moment in my speech, to display my svelte figure to (he hon. Member for Willesden, West, who alluded to obesity—something which is unknown to me. Of course we should all encourage children to drink milk and every home in the country to provide a maximum supply of milk as the most nutritious of all foods.

I have a secondary interest in this matter, in that I sit for South Worcestershire, which is a substantial milk-producing constituency. It was for that reason that I intervened in my right hon. Friend's speech and asked what affect the Bill would have on the demand for liquid milk, as closely as could be assessed, and what influence it would have on the farming community. My right hon. Friend replied with alacrity—I did not expect her to have the answer readily available: it was extraordinarily prescient of her to know that I would ask this question—that there would be a diminution of 1 per cent.

This is infinitesimal, of course. I do not think that there will be any diminution, because the efforts of the Milk Marketing Board, a large number of hon. Members and others interested in stimulating the demand for milk and supporting the production of an ever-increasing quantity of liquid milk—but no more liquid milk than can readily be sold—will look after any temporary shortfall which there may be and set the path upward again in increasing milk production.

In your absence from the Chair, Mr. Speaker, hon. Members opposite suggested that some of my hon. Friends and myself were guilty of hypocrisy in putting forward the Bill for Second Reading. We now have nods of assent from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), who suggested that I had been a hypocrite because the contents of the Bill, they said, are contrary to the provisions and the principles on which I was elected in June, 1970. That is utterly false. I warned all my constituents in South Worcestershire all 70,000—for which they gave me a vastly increased majority on that important occasion—that our application of welfare moneys would be highly selective in character and would be directed on the narrowest front to those truly in need, when the Conservative Party had disposed of the three or four weeks before the long recess.

Immediately the Conservative Party returned here in October, after the long recess, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer provided for important measures. He laid before the House the White Paper Cmnd. 4515 entitled "New Policies for Public Spending." Before quoting from the While Paper, I allude to the debate on public expenditure and taxation allied to it, and I quote my right hon. Friend, who said: I now come to the social services. Here, we shall establish more sensible priorities. We shall expect that, where the user can afford it, he should bear more of the cost and the taxpayer less, but we shall give more help to those who need it. At the same time, we intend to add substantially to the resources devoted to the basic structure of the health, welfare and education services and to introduce a new social security benefit."—[OFFFCIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1970; Vol. 805, c. 42.] The new social security benefit is the family supplementation arrangements. There was clearly stated on 27th October last, eight months ago, the intention of my party.

Referring to the Command Paper No. 4515, I find these words clearly denoted in paragraph 19: A Bill will be introduced to discontinue the supply of free milk to pupils at the end of the summer term after they reach age 7. Younger pupils in nursery and primary schools, pupils up to 12 who have a medical requirement and pupils in special schools will not be affected. The practical arrangements will be discussed with local education authorities. In a full year the saving will be about £9 million. That is exactly what the Bill implements. It is eight months too late, in my opinion—squeezed out of the legislative queue by the lengthy deliberations on the Industrial Relations Bill. Had there been parliamentary time, we should have introduced the Bill last autumn. For hon. Members opposite to accuse my party of hypocrisy, and individual members of it of being hypocrites, is grossly false. I resent the accusation. I rebut their suggestion. What we have printed in the Command Paper, and what was related by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 27th October, 1970, is an exact implementation of the policies on which we were elected in June, 1970, an important factor and feature of which is the Bill now before us.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that what he has just read out was part of the Conservative Party's election manifesto, too?

Sir G. Nabarro

Yes, Sir. The Conservative Party said throughout the General Election that it would be more discriminatory and would specialise more in the application of social welfare benefits. This afternoon, in the context of liquid milk, I thoroughly resent the conspiracy of the Labour Party to drown me in welfare milk. I do not want welfare milk, neither do I want it for my children. I will pay for milk myself. We will help those who are needy and have children who are genuinely requiring this form of sustenance in schools and who cannot afford to pay for it. But there is no sense or reason for drenching or drowning the whole of the community in welfare milk because a few are needy. That is chucking the baby out with the bath water, to use an appropriate metaphor.

Mr. Kinnock


Sir G. Nabarro

Not mixed, very appropriate.

I quote a further passage from the White Paper, because it has been suggested that this economy in welfare milk is equated to a reduction in income tax. The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central even suggested that the economy in welfare milk was being related to a benefit for surtax payers earning above £4,005 annually. The hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) is supporting her right hon. Friend by nodding assent to that pro-poition. I reject it absolutely because of the words in the Command Paper, which I now quote: Increased primary school building programme 21. There will be a substantial increase in school building programmes for 1972–73 to enable local education authorities to make faster progress in replacing and improving old primary schools. For Great Britain the previous programme (see general note (i) on tables 1 and 2, page 5) had allowed for the start of only £13 million worth of work for improvements in 1972–73. Instead the new programme for that year will include starts for this purpose totalling £44 million of which about £36 million will be for England, £5 million for Scotland, and £3 million for Wales. The net effect will be that expenditure on educational building as a whole during the four years to 1974–75 will be increased by £28 million. Here I put the matter into the correct perspective. We are saving £9 million on school milk. Against that, we are increasing the programme from £13 million to £44 million for improvement works in 1972–73. So we spend £31 million more on school improvements and we economise £9 million on school milk.

Mr. Kinnock


Sir G. Nabarro

It is not rubbish. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has followed the figures I quoted. We are spending more than three times more money on school improvements than the relatively small sum of £9 million economised on welfare school milk, and without depriving any children of school milk so long as it may be demonstrated that their parents really need financial help to pay for the milk.

The difference in philosophy between our two parties, the Conservative Party that I represent and the Party represented by the hon. Member for Willesden, West, can well be found by going back to the debates in the days of the previous Labour Government, when milk for secondary school children was abolished by the Labour Government.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

They were wrong.

Sir G. Nabarro

The hon. Gentleman may think that it was wrong, but, if he would allow me to continue, I would demonstrate that many of his colleagues had the courage to carry their objections into the Division Lobby. I quote from a speech made by the hon. Member for Willesden, West on that important occasion. This is relevant to what we are debating.

In the debate on Clause 3 of the Public Expenditure and Receipts Bill, the hon. Gentleman said: Under the Amendment, the nutritional facts would be established before the Clause was implemented. I am glad that a representative of the Ministry of Health is here, because that Ministry is seeking to get away from cure to prevention of illness. This is what the National Health Service is about. We have the opportunity when a child is growing to establish solid bones and healthy bodies for the rest of his life. Now, at the age of 11, and despite the fact that bones will grow until the age of 20, we will ignore this factor. Precisely because of this opportunity of giving school milk we have been one of the few countries to eliminate rickets. The calcium and protein which we have fed school children has given them the strength to withstand such diseases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,—26th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1093.] That is a remarkable statement. The hon. Gentleman is notorious, and his speech was characteristic, for being not only persistent—and I congratulate him on his pertinacious qualities—but utterly consistent. He is consistent within the philosophy of his party, because he believes in drowning the nation in welfare milk. I do not. I believe in giving welfare milk only to those in need.

Let us look at the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman was then supporting. It had been moved by the then hon. Member for Reading, Mr. John Lee. It said: Provided that in no case shall the provisions of this subsection apply to a pupil whose parent or guardian or other responsible person is in receipt of unemployment benefit or has been in such receipt at any time during the past twelve months. What the hon. Gentleman and his friends were then saying was that the provision for the withdrawal of welfare milk to secondary school children should not be made applicable to any child whose parent was then unemployed. The Labour Government rejected it out of hand—at least, the wilder excesses of its back benchers were frustrated by Ministers taking the advice of the Treasury and other civil servants.

The voting was interesting. I quote Division No. 67 of 26th February, 1968, column 1104, where the name "Pavitt, Laurence" is to be found at 11.55 p.m. voting against his own party and in support of the philosophy which he holds so dear. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman both on his persistence and on his consistence, but the fact remains that I do not want to be drowned in welfare milk, and neither does any other member of my party. We will apply welfare provisions in a discriminatory fashion to those who are truly needy. When it came to the voting on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", the hon. Gentleman carried his resistance even further, despite the Whips, and abstained from voting.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the hon. Gentleman take it from me that we do not mind what he drowns in?

Sir G. Nabarro

That is being thoroughly offensive and not very funny. I am seeking to demonstrate and not without some success, the fundamental differences in philosophy between the Labour Party and the Tory Party. I will help anybody in my constituency who is needy, infirm, sick, elderly, or for some other reason in unfortunate circumstances. What I will not do is to try to help people who do not need help and who ought to be capable of standing on their own hind legs.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

In order to help me with my winding-up speech, could the hon. Gentleman tell me where in the Bill, on which, he believes, he is shedding so much light, there is a poverty qualification for children to receive free milk?

Sir G. Nabarro

Children who are needy will undoubtedly receive free milk. I will deal with all this in a moment when I reach a further stage in my speech. I am now dealing with the hypocrisy of the Labour Party.

I will rub it in a little more, for we may be told by succeeding speakers, especially by the hon. Lady, that when the hon. Member for Willesden, West was in revolt against his own Government, he was suffering some kind of mental aberration, was off the rails, and that no member of the Labour Government supported the view that welfare milk for secondary school child; en should be abolished. But did they not?

Let us have a look at what was said by Mr. John Diamond, who lost his seat at Gloucester—

Mr. Hardy


Sir G. Nabarro

—and is now upstairs. No doubt his hypocrisy made a contribution to the loss of his seat. On the Bill dealing with the abolition of secondary school welfare milk he said: We very carefully considered the possibility of providing free milk for some secondary schoolchildren on grounds of special need, and we decided to continue free milk for children at special schools. But we have reluctantly concluded that it would not be possible to select from secondary schoolchildren in ordinary maintained schools those who should receive free milk while their fellows were not receiving milk in school at all. Great difficulties are obviously inherent in selecting individual children on nutritional grounds, or grounds of family finances. In particular, there is the overriding human difficulty that any such provision would inevitably single out children and lead to considerable embarrassment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 252–3.]

Mr. Skinner

He was not being serious.

Sir G. Nabarro

He was being serious. This was said in the House of Commons and it must have been serious; everything said in the House of Commons is serious. The hon. Gentleman was not in the last Parliament and does not realise the impact of Labour Ministers resisting the wilder excesses from their back benches.

The principle was applied to secondary school children in the last Parliament under a Labour Government, and very properly applied, in order to contain excessive expenditure. My own party, not only because it carefully follows the principles on which it was elected, is well advised, in the interests of the public purse and the national economy, to apply similar principles to all primary school children.

I want to say a word about the former Member for Uxbridge. He, too, lost his seat. I am delighted to see his successor here.

Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)

He once lost his seat, too.

Sir G. Nabarro

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) was elected with a resounding majority of 3,646. His predecessor pleaded with the then Minister, but the Minister did not take much notice of him, I am sad to say. The then Member for Uxbridge asked that more vending machines for milk should be placed in education establishments. Mr. Ryan said: I ask my hon. Friend whether he would encourage local authorities or individual schools to provide an alternative source of milk through vending machines …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1092.] I should like to refer to that.

There are far too many vending machines in education establishments offering cigarettes and tobacco. Had not the Government been so severely misguided as to defeat my recent attempt—

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

Not misguided.

Sir G. Nabarro

I do not want any interruptions from my hon. Friend, who was an opponent of the Bill.

Had not my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services been so misguided as to bring his immense forces to bear to squash that Bill—as the hon. Member for Willesden, West will recall—we should have had a provision on the Statute Book prohibiting vending machines selling cigarettes and tobacco in educational establishments.

I want my right hon. Friend to consider this carefully. I want there to be special provision and encouragement in all educational establishments to sell liquid milk.

Mr. Skinner

Why vending machines?

Sir G. Nabarro

Vending machines are appropriate machines for this purpose, as we know in the House of Commons. If the hon. Gentleman goes to the cafeteria, he will be able to buy in a paper cup a generous supply of ice-cold liquid milk, which will do his constitution much more good than the beer which he usually absorbs.

Mr. Hardy

How can a school of 500 or 1,000 children properly provide vending machines? The children will have only 10 or 15 minutes for their break. Does he think that it would be a good arrangement that hundreds of children should queue for the whole of their break time so as to be able to get to the vending machines?

Sir G. Nabarro

I shall not go into minute administrative arrangements. Such arrangements may be made perfectly well, as they are made in other places, where, for example, thousands of people are employed in factories, workshops or offices or, indeed, as such machines are used in the House of Commons. I want my right hon. Friend to have some regard to that suggestion.

Mr. Skinner

A moment ago the hon. Gentleman suggested that I should drink more milk and, perhaps, less beer. I have not had a drink of beer since I came here. I drink milk stout.

Sir G. Nabarro

True, it is better to drink stout than ale. But the hon. Member for Bolsover is generally misguided in these welfare food and milk matters, as he was last Thursday when he put a Question to my right hon. Friend about school meals. The arguments about meals at school, welfare milk, and so on are closely associated one with the other. On that occasion the hon. Gentleman was seeking to make propaganda at my right hon. Friend's expense, but, as always, she was a jump ahead of him and responded accurately to his Question. It was most instructive. The hon. Gentleman asked my right hon. Friend: how many schoolchildren in Derbyshire are taking school meals, at the latest possible date; and by how much this figure has fallen since a year previously. This was her reply: The latest information available to my Department relates to the autumn of last year, when the number of school meals served in Derbyshire was 73,441. The corresponding figure for 1969 was 73,289."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1971; Vol. 818, c. 1223.] The two figures are very close to one another.

Mr. Skinner

They are not relevant.

Sir G. Nabarro

What they show dramatically is that there has been no significant drop in the period stated.

Mr. Skinner


Sir G. Nabarro

I shall give way in a moment. I can ask Sir Jack Longden for the figures. He is an authority on Derbyshire education, and he will provide me with the figures. He is the distinguished director of education for the County of Derby, so distinguished that he has been awarded a knighthood for his services, and I am sure that he will provide me with evidence right up to date showing that there is no significant drop in the number of school meals as a result of recent provisions and new policies implemented during the last 12 months of Conservative rule.

Mr. Skinner

It should be pointed out that the figures given by the Secretary of State relate to autumn 1970, which was well before the increased charges came in. So there is no question of any significant drop being relevant there, as I pointed out in my supplementary question on that occasion. What is more, Jack Longden—

Sir G. Nabarro

Sir Jack Longden.

Mr. Skinner

—Sir Jack Longden has now left Derbyshire as director of education. He left it to serve on the Royal Commission dealing with local government reorganisation, and he was knighted not because of his services to the county in education but, almost certainly, because he served on the Maud Commission.

Sir G. Nabarro

The hon. Member for Bolsover misses the point. Sir Jack Longden was the greatest educationist the County of Derby had ever acquired. I am glad to observe that the silence which has greeted my comment in this important regard gives ample confirmation of that.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

The hon. Gentleman would like some up-to-date facts from Derbyshire. Perhaps he will be interested to know that I spent last week touring primary schools in the County Borough of Derby, and I was told in those schools that the number of children taking school meals had fallen by between 25 and 30 per school. Moreover, I was told that it was deplored in each and every one of those schools that this mean little Bill was to be brought forward to deprive the children also of school milk.

Sir G. Nabarro

If the period is irrelevant, as the hon. Member for Bolsover says, because it is 12 months out of date, we shall bring the figures up to date shortly. I ask my right hon. Friend to publish them.

Mr. Whitehead

I gave some significant facts.

Sir G. Nabarro

The hon. Gentleman must contain himself. He has ants in his pants, jumping up and down so much that I wonder whether he is a Member of Parliament or a jack-in-the-box. I was replying, first, to his hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. Between 1967 and 1969 the Labour Government increased charges for school meals considerably. If there was any falling off in the days of the Labour Government, it was due simply to the action of Labour Ministers.

The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) may have been told that there was a great decline in the consumption of school meals. There is no evidence to support it, as my right hon. Friend demonstrated last Thursday. If he has more recent evidence, perhaps he will produce it.

I turn now from Bolsover, Derbyshire, North and Derbyshire, North-East to Derbyshire, South-East. This is not a Derbyshire debate, but Derbyshire seems to have been prominently associated with this controversy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short), opening for the Opposition, purported to quote my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost). [An HON. MEMBER: "Disgraceful."] Disgraceful, I agree, because he had not given my hon. Friend forward notice that he would quote him. I shall now deal with the point which he then made. The right hon. Gentleman did not quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT. He gave his own interpretation of what was said, and, as usual, it was wildly inaccurate. This is what was said in the exchange between my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend last Thursday.

My right hon. Friend had replied to a Question from the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mrs. Doris Fisher), and then, in response to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), she said: The hon. Gentleman asks whether I do not think it disgraceful that there should be a fall-off. I do not think that one should assume that because fewer children are taking school meals they are not getting as good a meal at home or elsewhere. Whereupon my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East, in his characteristically ebullient fashion, and in the most apposite terms, put this proposition to my right hon. Friend: Does not my right hon. Friend feel that it would be appropriate to remind the Opposition and the country that it is not the State's responsibility to feed children, that her resources in the education service should be concentrated on improving educational facilities, and that if parents are not prepared to ensure that their children are properly fed, they are not fit to be parents and should not have children?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1971; Vol. 818, c. 1222.]

Mr. Swain

The hon. Gentleman wants to say that in Swadlincote.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the hon. Gentleman want to interrupt me?

Mr. Swain

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) wants to go into his constituency and say that on the public platform. His constituents would lynch him.

Sir G. Nabarro

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East walked into this Chamber at 6.28 p.m. for the first time. I noted the time at once, because he is notorious in this House for absenting himself from debates, coming in at a late hour and remaining in a sedentary position and bawling.

An. Hon. Member

The hon. Gentle man has been speaking for 35 minutes already.

Sir G. Nabarro

Another 35 minutes coming up.

Of course, the philosophy of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East is, in metaphorical terms, exactly the same as the supplementary question which I put to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food some months ago, when he was being attacked over this same question. I said that his advice to the community should be—I repeat it and I shall come to Swadlincote with it—"Spend less in the boozers and more on the kids." In other words, working men who can afford to spend large sums of money on beer or other alcoholic beverages would do well to devote an appropriate part of it to buying milk for their children, and not charging the cost of the milk to the taxpayer.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Is my hon. Friend aware that two children can have a third of a pint of milk a day for a week for the price of about 1½ bottles of milk stout?

Sir G. Nabarro

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. James Hill). I wish to put this Bill into its correct perspective as to the influence it might have on family and household budgets. I have had worked out carefully what would be the effect of removing free milk in primary schools on a family with two children getting milk free at the present time. The extra charge would be of the order of 16½p per week, or 3s. 6d. in old currency. If there were three children in the family the extra cost would be 25p a week, or 5s. If the parents cannot afford it, there will be provision to help them.

Hon. Members

That is not in the Bill.

Sir G. Nabarro

Maybe not in the Bill, but it is elsewhere in the social welfare services.

Miss Lestor

I have already asked the hon. Gentleman—

Sir G. Nabarro

I am coming to the hon. Lady's point. She is so impatient.

Miss Lestor

I am impatient on this point. I have asked the hon. Gentleman, and he said he would tell me, where the Bill says that poverty is a ground for getting free milk.

Sir G. Nabarro

I wonder where the hon. Lady has been in the last few months. I wonder whether she has read the legislative provisions of my party. We have brought in family supplementation—

Hon. Members

In the Bill?

Sir G. Nabarro

Not in this Bill. [Interruption.] Of course not. The "Ha, ha" from Labour hon. Members displays their incredible ignorance. Family supplementation provisions are in other legislative Measures, but they are directed to provisions for helping poor and needy families who cannot provide the money for milk in school. There was no family supplementation under the Labour Government. Family supple mentation is available to help poor families—

Mr. Skinner

Not for the unemployed.

Sir G. Nabarro

Yes—for the unemployed. The unemployed may derive benefit from other welfare provisions to provide money for milk for children in school if the parents cannot afford to pay for it, and there are provisions, as my hon. Friend in winding up the debate will amply confirm—

Mr. Edward Taylor

indicated assent.

Sir G. Nabarro

I am glad to see my hon. Friend nodding assent. There are ample provisions for the family that cannot afford to pay an economic price for welfare milk in schools to be helped by State provisions. [Interruption.] Labour hon. Members do not like having the facts of life rubbed into them. I have demolished the case they have put up against the Bill. It is a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman who led for the Opposition makes his own speech and then scurries for cover. He is never here to listen to the come-back from the opposite side of the House. He ran away a quarter of an hour after making his speech.

Mr. William Price (Rugby)

The hon. Gentleman has misquoted my right hon. Friend.

Sir G. Nabarro

I have quoted from HANSARD. The right hon. Gentleman could not quote from HANSARD in his speech, and for that reason he was wildly inaccurate in almost everything he said.

Mr. Price


Sir G. Nabarro

I shall happily give way to the hon. Gentleman, but he is getting very black looks from his hon. Friends behind him for delaying the debate if he persists. Is he sure that he wants to intervene?

Mr. Price

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wishes to be occurate about at least one quotation alleged to have been made by my right hon. Friend. He will find that this quotation was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck).

Sir G. Nabarro

No. The quotation I gave from my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East was strictly correct.

Mr. Price

It was quoted not by my right hon. Friend but from below the Gangway.

Sir G. Nabarro

Whether it was quoted from below the Gangway or by the right hon. Gentleman, the right hon. Gentle man was even too idle to go away and get the correct text—

Mr. Price


Sir G. Nabarro

—of what I said a few months ago about spending less in the boozers and more on the kids. He got that all wrong, so I had to correct him. It is correct that this was brought out by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) and agreed to by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), in quoting the remarks I made in the House last week, did not suggest that these remarks were quoted by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short). What I believe he was referring to was that the right hon. Gentleman regarded my remarks as arrogant, and said so in this Chamber this afternoon, and I believe that that is what my hon. Friend was wishing to draw attention to.

Mr. Price

My right hon. Friend did not misquote the hon. Gentleman, did he?

Sir G. Nabarro

I do not believe that my hon. Friend was arrogant at all. He has a philosophical approach to these matters, which is identical to my own. What hon. Members opposite seem to forget is that on 7th January this year I had the pleasure of visiting my hon. Friend's constituency and making three speeches for him on the same day—one at lunchtime, one in the afternoon and one at a public meeting in the evening.

Mr. Swain

Same speech.

Sir G. Nabarro

No—three entirely different, as always. Shortly before he was elected I visited my hon. Friend's constituency and delivered the speech in Derby, which led to widespread approbation and acclamation. He won the seat, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge won his by 3,646 votes.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are all interested in the hon. Gentleman's speeches, but he should now speak to the Bill.

Sir G. Nabarro

I was led astray by my hon. Friend. The fact is that in the Conservative Party there is a philosophy which says that welfare benefits should be applied where they are really needed.

I want to ask my right hon. Friend a final question. For far too long there has been a discrimination between the public and private sectors of education. At the moment 95 per cent. of pupils are in State schools, while 5 per cent. are in private, independent, fee-paying schools. I declare my interest. I am Chairman of the Council for Independent Education, which is a consultative body representing all fee-paying school interests.

Mr. Kinnock

It is only 5 per cent.

Sir G. Nabarro

That is so, but it is very important that parents should have a choice, an alternative to State schools. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who persists in shouting at me. might remember that the Labour Party took no steps to abolish the private sector of education. It could not do it. It never will be able to do it. There will always be a private sector of education, and I see no reason why welfare milk for the under-sevens may be given at taxpayers' expense in State schools but not in private schools.

Mr. Kinnock

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. I have chosen to make my interruptions from a sedentary position because, before the hon. Gentleman started to speak, I took it upon myself not to interrupt formally. My view is being borne out by the ridiculously long speech which the hon. Gentleman is making on a very serious matter.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. I have no control over the length of speeches.

Sir G. Nabarro

Mr. Speaker, I am. as always, grateful for your protection.

Mr. Fred Evans

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. You have ruled that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) must be pertinent to the debate, but he has again strayed far from it.

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter for me Sir Gerald Nabarro.

Sir G. Nabarro

As always, Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for your protection.

In case the new arrivals on the benches opposite do not know the facts of parliamentary life, let me tell them that it is permissible, and within the rules of order, to draw attention to omissions from the Bill. We are on the Second Reading of the Bill now, and I am drawing attention to an omission from it. I should like my right hon. Friend to provide that children under seven in private, fee-paying independent schools may receive free milk in the same way as children receive it in State schools. My interpretation of the Bill is that children in private schools do not get free milk. If I am wrong, I hope that my right hon. Friend will correct me, but, if I am right, will she consider introducing a Government Amendment, in Committee, on Report, or at some other appropriate stage, to make sure that children up to age of seven receiving their education in private fee-paying independent schools get free welfare milk on the same terms—that is, gratuitously—as children educated in State schools.

Mrs. Thatcher: The point is dealt with in Clause 1(3), under which children in schools not maintained by local education authorities receive milk until the end of the summer term in which they become seven, but the provision for milk on health grounds beyond that does not extend to these schools. At the end of the summer term in which they reach seven it does extend to them.

Sir G. Nabarro

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that explanation. I hope to go away and examine the provision in greater detail.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)


Sir G. Nabarro

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Page

I wonder whether, in his—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have said that I have no control over the length of speeches. I have not, but I have a memory. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) has now been speaking for 50 minutes, and I think that at least half-a-dozen other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I hope that the hon. Member will have some regard to that fact.

Sir G. Nabarro

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Page

I wonder whether my hon. Friend would be willing to ask our right hon. Friend to impress on local authori- ties the importance of giving equal treatment to children in State schools and those who go to independent schools?

Sir G. Nabarro

My right hon. Friend will have heard that apposite inquiry, and no doubt will deal with it later if any further correction or emendation is required.

In deference to your views, Mr. Speaker, and as I have been speaking for more than 50 minutes—[Interruption.]—no doubt it seems like two hours and 50 minutes. The hon. Lady always shuns the truth in these important matters.

I end by congratulating my right hon. Friend on two counts, first, on implementing precisely the Conservative Party's General Election manifesto of June, 1970; second, on carrying through to fruition the important provisions related by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the public expenditure debate arising from Cmnd. 4515 on 27th October last. Notwithstanding the Whips tonight, I am assured that the Bill will receive a substantial majority on Second Reading, which will give joy to all the Conservatives in this country.

7.27 p.m.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I make no apology for having described the Measure as a "nasty little Bill." The arguments advanced by the Conservative Party in its support of the Bill could be summarised in the writing space provided by a milk bottle top, and very little of that would be taken up by the points made by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro).

Mr. Fred Evans

The hon. Gentleman is here only to waste time.

Mr. Morris

I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South adopted a clever tactic.

Sir G. Nabarro

He is a clever chap.

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman appreciated that few of his hon. Friends wished to offer any defence of the Bill. By taking up more than 50 minutes of our time he has shielded those of his hon. Friends who are much more deeply embarrassed by the provisions of the Bill than they would care to admit in open debate.

The Bill is regarded as extremely serious.—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has taken up a great deal of our time. I hope that he will maintain silence from a sedentary position while those who wish to take up much less time than he did are addressing the House.

The Bill is deeply regretted by representative people in localities throughout the country. I have received from the City of Manchester—as have some of my hon. Friends—its view of what it regards as a deeply retrograde step. The Manchester City Council Education Committee points out that in another context the Government said: A genuine local democracy implies that decisions should be taken—and should be seen to be taken—as locally as possible. When I asked the right hon. Lady earlier today whether local authorities would be allowed to pay for free school milk from the rates if they wished to do so, I had in mind what had been said by her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in his White Paper "Local Government in England." But in this Administration one Minister says one thing and another Minister acts completely in defiance of and in contradiction to her colleague's policy. I hope that the right hon. Lady will take very seriously our concern that local authorities, if they wish, should be able to continue to provide free school milk for primary school children.

The right hon. Lady referred to Dr. Lynch and his colleague, who produced an important report about the feeding habits of school children—

Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

Before my hon. Friend leaves that point of local autonomy, may I point out that the view which he has expressed is that of the party which received 60 per cent. of the votes of the electorate in the recent municipal election in Manchester.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Nor was this an unimportant issue in that recent test of public opinion. As usual, the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South was somewhat out of date. He was referring to the test of opinion in June, 1970, but my hon. Friend is referring to a test of opinion in Manchester and elsewhere in recent weeks. Naturally, I agree with my hon. Friend—

Sir G. Nabarro

He is your brother.

Mr. Alfred Morris

He is the most fraternal of my hon. Friends. The study undertaken by Dr. Lynch and his colleague showed that school milk is an important item in the diet of school children. In Manchester recently a disturbing report showed that more and more very young children had to wear false teeth. I would much prefer to spend public money on school milk than on false teeth for young children. Preventive action is much more important than curative or remedial action.

We know from nutritional experts that there is a serious danger of increased hypoplasm among young children because of the withdrawal of school milk at an important formative stage in their development. Hypoplastic teeth are honey-combed teeth. They are teeth that look as if they had been stuck together into one big tooth. They are caused by lack of calcium and riboflavine. That is why I call this Bill a prescription for ugliness. I ask the right hon. Lady even now to consider what has been said by Professor John Yudkin and other distinguished nutritionists in the context of whether the Bill should be pressed by the Government.

The Government will not save £9 million by this Measure. It was estimated that the withdrawal of school milk from secondary school children would "save" £4½ million, but I have it on the most reliable testimony that the "saving" was £1.2 million. If the saving from the abolition of milk for primary school children is only a quarter of the expected saving, it will be £2¼ million and not £9 million.

There are hon. Gentlemen opposite who know something about the agricultural determinations made by their right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. When that aspect is taken into account, the saving is much smaller than the apparent saving. The figure given by the right hon. Lady was the gross figure, or the apparent saving. I should like to know what is the expected net saving. If the right hon. Lady disagrees that the actual net saving from the withdrawal of school milk for secondary school children was only £1.2 million, will she tell me how, inter-departmentally, her figure is arrived at? I insist that there will not be a saving of £9 million by the Bill and that it is misleading to say that the saving to public funds will be £9 million. Let us have more accurate information.

The right hon. Lady referred to the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food policy. It is deeply regrettable that that Committee was not approached before the Government took the decision to abolish the provision of milk for primary school children. Professor John Yudkin said to me that he doubted the value of serving on a committee of this kind if the committee were not consulted by the Government of the day.

The country wishes the House to reject the Bill. The smokescreen from the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, designed to hide the inadequacy of the arguments advanced from behind him, is no substitute for genuine debate. I hope that the right hon. Lady will take seriously the arguments advanced by my right hon. and hon. Friends. Many local authorities want the freedom to save their children from preventable ill-health. They want it to be emphasised, as do the National Dairy Council and other organisations involved, that there will be no saving of the order of £9 million. I again appeal to the right hon. Lady to consider carefully all that we have said, and not to proceed with a Bill which the vast majority of people in the country regard as a nasty and shabby Measure.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

There has been a great deal of compassionate and sensitive feeling for the care of our children, indeed for the care of anyone in our society of any age, today. There has also been much talk about the saving of £9 million. I do not welcome that completely without giving some thought to the possible cost of that saving. I am concerned, as were the hon. Members for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) and Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt), about the possible effect which the drinking of less milk by our schoolchildren may have on their ultimate health. We must all be concerned, and no one on this side is any less concerned about this than the hon. Members opposite.

We do have to be responsible, if we are to set an example of greater responsibility to parents and families in our developing society. I am concerned at certain things that I hear about, developing in our schools on this question of food and drink. I have a letter which arrived today from a constituent of mine which I would like to quote. It first of all concerns meals but it also concerns the question of what the child drinks with the meal. The letter says: My daughter attends the Endowed Girls Junior School, Whitstable, in Kent. Since the increase in school dinners she has been having, in company with 12 or more other children, packed lunches. On Wednesday 9th June the children were told that they were no longer allowed to bring drinks from home, hot or cold, to school. This means that from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. they go without a hot drink. One of the reasons given was that the children who had school dinners only had water to drink. I will try not to bore you with too much detail but there is a great deal of difference between a hot meal with a cold drink and a cold meal with water. I rang the headmistress to protest at this injustice. I also lodged a protest with the local education authority and they support the headmistress's action. I sent my daughter to school on 10th June with the usual lunch and a flask of hot drink and the flask was taken away from her at 11 a.m. and returned to her at 4 p.m. on leaving. You may say that in this day and age this is incredible but this action was taken by a mature, adult teacher. I think the House will agree that there is some misdirection and some misunderstanding of the responsibilities in that school by those teachers. Together with the new plans we have made for savings and giving some responsibility back to the parents who can afford to pay for their children's school meals and milk, we should also say parents who provide the packed lunches should be able to send their children to school with a bottle of milk or a flask of milk, or some other drink. There should be some direction given to the local authorities so that this restriction does not continue to apply.

I said that in the first year of Conservative Government we are creating a more responsible society. I know that there will be many voices saying that we are going about it in a rather tough fashion, that it is tough to take away the opportunity of free milk in schools. The last Labour Government decided to do this in secondary schools, and all we are saying in the Bill is that this should now stop after the age of seven. Is this so wrong? We are creating a more responsible society.

Mr. Freeson

I respect the hon. Member's feelings, but even if we accept, which we do not, the point that he makes about State provision, how do we increase responsibility by preventing, by law, local authorities—elected authorities—from providing this service to people among their electorate if they wish to do so? How is that increasing responsibility? Surely he cannot go along with the Government on that point, even if he agrees with them on the first?

Mr. Crouch

I understand the purpose of the hon. Gentleman's intervention but really we are trying to create greater responsibility among parents towards their children. We are saying that parents must begin to take some further responsibility for the provision of their children's food and drink in schools. The State provides very fine facilities in education. My right hon. Friend has produced and presented to this House a programme for greatly expanding expenditure on schools. The programme of expenditure for 1972–73 of £38 million is a record for any one year in this sector. We are not neglecting our educational responsibilities; we are redirecting our priorities. We are recognising that a great deal has to be done to improve education; we are recognising not only a need for further buildings to replace old buildings but the need to produce more teachers and to increase their quality.

These are surely the requirements of any Government concerned to produce the best possible facilities and opportunities for our children's education and well-being. We are not neglecting their health; what we are saying is that parents must not neglect the health of their children. It is difficult to change direction in a society but that is really the difference between this Government and the Opposition. The country will begin to recognise that there has to be a change of direction, and gradually people will take upon themselves this greater responsibility.

Let us recognise that we are talking here of asking families to provide something like 5s. a week for meals for three children—less than the price of a packet of cigarettes. Surely this is not too much to ask parents to pay for their children. If we never take this sort of decision, if we never face up to this difficult decision—and I find it difficult from this side of the House—if we do not face up to the possible ill-health which may result in perhaps 1 per cent. of our children today—and we must be on our guard—we will never see the change of direction, with mothers and fathers taking this greater responsibility for their children, so allowing our Government to take greater responsibility for the things which the State must provide—the buildings, the teachers and the educational opportunities.

Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the criterion is that responsibility ought to go to parents, would he say whether he agrees that exactly the same criterion must apply, for example, to maintenance grants to keep children at school after school-leaving age for college of education awards and for university grants?

Mr. Crouch

No, I would not agree at all. As I was trying to argue, that is the main purpose of the State in education, to be generous in these areas. While I have talked about a more responsible society, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) in his long speech made the point that there were many other social benefits which this Government had provided in the last year. He mentioned the family income supplement. For the first time a Government have begun to consider the means of providing for families in employment who are below the poverty line.

In a redirection of priorities in social benefits, the Government have decided that it is vitally necessary and long overdue to provide a pension as of right for people over the age of 80. Only a few weeks ago the Secretary of State announced greatly increased benefits for disabled persons. The Government are going in the right direction and showing the right sense of priority. Some people think it wrong that we should deprive children of the regular provision of one-third of a pint of milk a day, which encourages the milk drinking habit. Milk is very good for children. My teenage son drinks pints of milk a day at some cost. He prefers it to other drinks, and I am glad that he does. But the habit obviously started at an early age in primary school.

This Bill is taking a new direction. I should not like to see the good practice of young people taking this valuable food to build them up and to protect their health lose its momentum. But it need not do so if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State encourages a campaign to ensure that families recognise the true value of milk as a food and encourages parents to take this responsibility on their own shoulders where it properly should be.

7.51 p.m.

Mr. Fred Evans (Caerphilly)

I regret that I shall have to leave the Chamber shortly after making my speech because of another engagement. That would not have been necessary if we had not had a filibuster speech from the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) and a still more tedious drooling of words—one could not dignify it by calling it a speech—from the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro).

This is a mean and vicious Bill conceived in ideological vengeance and delivered by a midwife who has shown only too clearly how anxious she is to see the ugly brat enter the political world, to the rejoicing of many members of her party. The absence of so many hon. Members opposite is indicative of the shame which some of them feel about it.

The viciousness of the Bill is obvious in the present economic context. With an extremely high unemployment rate, more families are living on or below the subsistence level. The unemployment rate in Wales is extremely high. The male unemployment rate in my constituency is 17.5 per cent. In one travel-to-work area in my constituency, male unemployment has risen by 100 per cent. since last June.

At the same time the Government have completely failed to control prices. The limited amount of housekeeping money in most households has been eroded. There is an ever-increasing necessity to guard children's health through school milk and meals. Yet this is the moment when the Government have chosen to introduce what I can only term a vicious Measure. It is not simply mean; it is class-consciously vicious. I hope that my party will learn a lesson from this and that when we resume power—and it is the feeling of the country that an election tomorrow would sweep the Conservative Party from power—we shall show the same ruthlessness in achieving our objectives.

Much play has been made by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) about parental responsibility. Anyone who knows anything about teaching knows that, in an age of earlier marriages and of a limited period after 11 years of age particularly in the secondary modern school, the amount of knowledge of dietetics and cookery which can be imparted to girls is extremely limited. One factor in the dietary finding of Dr. Lynch was that irrespective of income there is still a great lack of knowledge about children's diets in every home, but especially in the homes which are already deprived financially.

It is therefore a very cheap form of preventive medicine to supply one-third of a pint of milk to children. This was recognised in the early days of the last war when women were needed to work and children had perhaps haphazard meals, certainly meals limited in dietetic balance. That is even more so today. Let it not be misunderstood that affluence means a properly balanced diet for everybody.

Perhaps the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State will consider what is happening in America. International Documentary Television Films is making a documentary film about this matter. I saw some of the present attitudes in America where public money is to be spent by vastly extending the provision of free milk to all children and greatly to increase the number of school meals because it is found, even in an affluent society, that it is not always possible to give children the kind of diet that they should have. The argument about parental responsibility should not altogether wash.

The right hon. Lady the Secretary of State glossed over the research work of Dr. Lynch. I do not know why. He is the head of a nutritional research unit. He involved in his researches 11 other university departments throughout the country. The results of his research work have been borne out by many other people who have carried out similar work. But, if the right hon. Lady does not want to accept his findings, perhaps she will be prepared to accept the findings of the World Health Organisation which found that the minimum calcium intake that a child needs per day is 400 milligrammes, and one-third of a pint of milk provides 250 milligrammes. Therefore, a child is reasonably safeguarded simply by drinking one-third of a pint of milk a day in school.

Mr. Rost

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that mothers are so ignorant and irresponsible that they would deprive their children of the nutriment from milk that they require unless it was provided free in schools?

Mr. Evans

That is a typical twist of the argument that we expect from hon. Members opposite. Of course mothers are not ignorant or adopting evil attitudes. What I have said is that there is a lack of knowledge. The twist of the argument in the hon. Gentleman's intervention makes it appear that there is a deliberately negligent attitude towards children. There is not.

I will put one or two other imbecilities which come into this matter. For example, there was the abortive Education Bill of the Labour Government. The right hon. Lady argued then passionately in favour of freedom for the local authorities. Freedom was the great watchword, and the present Secretary of State for the Environment, before the last election, was clamouring for freedom for the local authorities and arguing that they should be free from the Socialist bondage to which they had been tied for so long. This Government produced the Education (Scotland) Bill, and there this argument about freedom came out most strongly.

I do not want to take too much of the time of the House but I should like to give a quotation from the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland moving the Second Reading of that Bill, which was about fee paying being reintroduced into Scottish schools. That, he said, was a matter of freedom for the local authorities; not that there should be fee paying in all the schools: it was purely a matter of freedom of the local authorities. He said: This illustrates a fundamental difference between the philosophy of the Government and their predecessor. We believe that in running their own affairs people should have some freedom to choose what they consider to be the best. The Socialists seem to believe that people should get only what the Government think good for them…. The nature of school provision will rightly vary from area to area according to local circumstances. Education authorities are in day-to-day contact with the people most concerned with the provision—teachers, parents and children—and so they are best qualified to make decisions about the organisation of school education."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1970; Vol. 806, c. 415–16.] Now we get this volte-face. There is to be freedom at one stage and a denial of freedom at another.

Mr. Crouch

The hon. Gentleman has accused me of misleading the House in one direction, but he is misleading the House on this question of freedom. The Labour Government deliberately restricted secondary schools from providing milk either free or on payment. They did it by legislation. There was no freedom whatsoever. What answer has he to that?

Mr. Evans

That is exactly the point I was about to make next. Much play has been made of this taking away of school milk from secondary schoolchildren and the reinstitution of prescription charges. Instead of having positive answers right hon. and hon. Members opposite say, "Ah, but you did the same as well." They must remember that many of us resisted even those attempts; but all of us—all of us—on these benches recognise the difference of objective. In order to show that there was some across-the-board equality of sacrifice the Labour Government were prepared to make some small sacrifices in the social services, but they always made it plain that the long-term objective was to restore those services and to increase them. The objective of this Government is the massive transfer of resources from one part of the population to the much smaller, minute, section of the population—the "haves" who possess a great amount of the wealth of this country.

The people of this country have come to realise this—unfortunately, a year too late, maybe; but they are realising just what they did last 18th June. They look at this Bill and at the provision of school milk, and they look at other actions of this Government, and if there were a general election tomorrow there would be no doubt at all about what would happen.

Anyone who has lived in an area like the North-East or the North-West of England, or South Wales—and I speak particularly or South Wales—knows the fears which are being expressed by medical officers of health. We know that medical officers of health are already discerning signs of the reappearance of the dreaded disease, rickets. That is due to a deficiency of calcium. The medical officer of health at Merthyr Tydvil, for instance, will give evidence on this. Those of us who lived through the period of the absurdities which went on at an earlier time see old people walking around with badly bowed legs and twisted joints because of their earlier calcium deficiency.

I well remember, as a teacher in a grammar school, that we had about 40 per cent. unemployment in the catchment area of the school. So we began to insist on the provision of free school meals. The medical attitude will be exactly the same over school milk now. Then to get free meals one had to put in a medical certificate that the child was under-nourished. When the child was no longer under-nourished it was struck off the list—until it became under-nourished again. This is likely to happen in this case.

My right hon. Friend asked the question, what is to happen if an enlightened medical officer of health—and certainly there are some to be found in South Wales—says that, on medical grounds and on medical evidence, all the children should have free milk? Will the right hon. Lady challenge the medical judgment? What criterion will she have in deciding between a medical officer in one part of the country and a medical officer in another part of the country?

On the teaching side, who will do all the arranging? In a typical school some of the children will be seven or just under seven and some will be over seven. There is a stretch in the age limit of some six months. Some of the children will be having free milk and some will be denied it and some will be paying for milk. There will have to be a great deal of sorting out of the children under this legislation. It will cost nearly as much to bring to the school the limited amount of free milk as to bring in the heavier load there would be if every child were to have free milk.

Who is to do all this arranging? Will there be ancillary helpers? How much will it cost to have ancillary helpers? Why have the teachers not been consulted, or the head teachers? Why were teachers not consulted as soon as the Bill was envisaged? Having won the battle to get rid of serving milk and of other duties in the schools, will the teachers submit willingly to having these burdens of administration imposed upon them? Does the right hon. Lady think they will? Most certainly not. Somebody has to assume the final burden of responsibility in this administration. Is it to be imposed on the head teachers? Is that to be written into their contracts of employment? We want to know the answers to these questions, and we want to know them now.

Although the Bill applies to education authorities, there is no mention of district councils. We appeal to district councils to assume the burden of providing milk and to reach some agreement with their county authorities. This may involve a modification of precept or other arrangements. But we appeal to the London boroughs to follow this line and to set up the maximum resistance to this kind of Measure.

It is not my prerogative to advise the borough education authorities, since they are sane, well-balanced and intelligent people. I know the attitude in the borough of Merthyr Tydfil. I know how determined it is—and it must be their own decision. Their determination must not be under-estimated. If the Government refuse to modify the Bill so that milk can be provided out of the rates, and if this kind of resistance is experienced, we must make it clear to the country that we tried to get the present Government to effect such a modification so that the health of at least some children should not be put at hazard.

If a modification is made, as I hope it is, the duty of the Opposition is to point out that the Tory Government have already imposed on the population swingeing increases in rates and that the expenditure out of rates would be made unwillingly because wt do not wish to impose further burdens. However, if we are faced with the evil choice of imposing an extra rate and of seeing the health of some of our children put at hazard, we will impose the extra rate. But the guilt lies firmly with the Government.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North)

I intend to make a brief speech. I welcome the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans). We owe him a debt in that he has spelt out the significance of Dr. Lynch's survey. Some people have noted that Dr. Lynch's statistics indicate that unsatisfactory diets are being taken by considerable sections of the community. The figure of unsatisfactory or poor diet in Wales was about 66 per cent.

When I first heard this figure, before looking into the matter in detail, I felt that it reflected a considerable degree of poverty in my native Wales which did not exist so far as my personal observation was concerned. Therefore, I was glad that the hon. Member for Caerphilly spelt out the fact that in an affluent society, even when there is plenty of money available, dietetically parents and children do not always have those things which are good for them. Indeed, I doubt whether my own consumption of food would always meet the approval of those who talk in terms of a balanced diet.

The hon. Gentleman made an important point in talking of the need for more knowledge in the preparation of food. There is perhaps a case for spending more money and giving a greater service in our schools to educate the parents of the future so that they have a greater knowledge of what is required to bring up a family.

I do not share the hon. Gentleman's view that the withdrawal of the supplementary diet of a third of a pint of milk for children between the ages of seven to 11 will have a disastrous effect on their health. The hon. Gentleman quoted certain medical officers of health, though not by name, in South Wales and I am sure that our medical officers are as progressive as anywhere in the country; but I would point out that the Public Health Committee of the British Medical Association commented that there was no evidence that the withdrawal of milk supplies in schools for children from seven to 11 years of age will have any detrimental effect on health.

I particularly welcome the aspect of the Bill which allows a local education authority to provide milk at an economic charge. Before I came to the House I was the headmaster of a secondary school, and one of the problems we faced was the provision of snacks during the school breaks. We faced this problem at a time when the Government of the day had withdrawn free milk supplies. Indeed, in the period from 1968, if the secondary schools wished to provide some form of drink, since milk supplies had been withdrawn by a Labour Government, they had to look a little further than the water tap. We looked at what we could provide, and vending machines were installed.

It was suggested earlier in the debate that there was some difficulty involved in the installation of vending machines because there is only a 15-minute break in which children are able to use them. In fact, in the larger schools some two or three such machines are provided and a wide choice is offered to the pupils. It is reasonable in that context to remember, particularly since in recent days we have heard so much about the nutritional value of milk, in 1968, when milk was withdrawn from secondary schools by the Labour Government, I did not then hear quite so much about milk's nutritional value. It is only common prudence to allow local education authorities to provide milk as well as Coca Cola and a wide range of goods through vending machines.

There is one aspect of the Bill about which I am not happy. Local authorities are not to be allowed to decide for themselves whether they should provide milk out of ratepayers' funds. This causes me some unease and unhappiness. If an authority can decide the structure of secondary organisation, it is reasonable that it should make the less momentous decision about whether it should supply a third of a pint of milk. This surely could come within an authority's ambit. What are our schools about? Are the priorities to involve the catering and cafeteria aspects of school organisation? So far as I am concerned a school is primarily a place of learning and not a restaurant.

I accept that a Government must make the decision about social priorities. This is what influences the Government today, just as it influenced the Labour Government in 1968. They then made a decision about the provision of milk and said that resources were not to be spent on milk in secondary schools; the present Government have reached a similar decision. I am not altogether happy about the situation. Although I do not altogether trust the judgment of local councils, I have great faith in the judgment of the people. I am fairly certain that a local ratepayer would look very closely at any argument put forward by a council for the provision of one-third of a pint of milk for each child. Possibly in certain situations a case could be put forward by a local authority that such a course could be justified on medical grounds, but ratepayers would certainly take a close look at the matter.

Ratepayers would want to ensure that milk was offered during the summer holiday and particularly the Christmas holiday. They would want to know how much milk had been consumed when on offer to the children during the Christmas and summer holidays. If it is as important nutritionally and as vital as some people have suggested to the children's health, then ratepayers in those authorities that decide to supply free milk will ask, "What about last Christmas or last summer—how many children turned up for this vital commodity during those periods? What steps did the authority then take to ensure that this provision was widely advertised and that the children were encouraged to go along to receive this valuable one-third of a pint per day?" If the answer is that very few people have taken advantage of the offer, then many ratepayers would question the whole value of the exercise.

Mr. James Hamilton

Could the hon. Gentleman instance any areas where milk is supplied during the school holidays? Certainly none of my colleagues on these benches knows of any place where school milk is provided during the holidays.

Mr. Roberts

I am sure that in the borough of Merthyr the milk supplies are available during the holidays. I understood that this was something that authorities could provide. If they have not done so, then they ought to have done so. Is this not a reflection on the value which local authorities attach to this one-third of a pint of milk? I am prepared to be corrected on this matter, but I understand that it can be provided, and in the case of Merthyr is provided. I will make some inquiries about the extent to which it is taken up.

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)

Has the hon. Gentleman's own Tory-controlled authority made milk available during school recesses?

Mr. Roberts

I cannot speak for the Cardiff authority on this question. I have said that Merthyr has done so. I have been assured on this point by members of the Merthyr Council. I shall be interested to learn how much of it has been taken up. I am certain that if ratepayers have to pay for milk supplies, they will closely question the value of the provision, and if in their wisdom they believe that such supplies should be made, I cannot see any objection to a local authority being allowed to make such provision. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider this part of the Bill.

8.23 p.m.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

I warned the hon. Member for Worcestershire. South (Sir G. Nabarro) that I should refer to him early in my speech. I will make the reference very brief. He has prohibited some hon. Members from speaking on this singularly important issue of milk in primary schools because of the ridiculous length to which he took his speech. It is necessary to put that on the record because if we had been discussing a non-contentious Measure or one which was not so important the hon. Gentleman's action might have been excusable. This is no reflection on Mr. Speaker, who occupied the Chair for most of the hon. Gentleman's speech. Mr. Speaker must obviously rely on the responsibility of hon. Members to discipline themselves.

The Bill affects every child between 7 and 11 to a greater or a lesser degree, depending on whether the child is sick or fit. Hon. Members have been prevented from making points relevant to their constituents by the thoroughly irresponsible behaviour of the hon. Member.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) said that before coming to the House he was a member of the teaching profession. I go further and say that the hon. Gentleman was the well-respected head of a school in Cardiff. He deserved that respect. It was, therefore, all the more surprising to me that the hon. Gentleman defended the Bill. Other members of the Tory Party who are as progressive as the hon. Gentleman in education are conspicuous by their absence: they have not bothered to attend to support this action by their Secretary of State.

The hon. Gentleman defended the Bill in a tortuous way. He supported part of the Bill, one which we are forced to accept. That is the part which will permit schools to make milk available for sale. It is a second-best. The hon. Gentleman then made the small criticism that local authorities should be able to finance the provision of milk from the rates. Then the hon. Gentleman went very wide of the mark by pinning all his arguments on the availability of milk during school holidays. It it ludicrous to compare the situation in which children are at home during holidays with the situation of their leaving their homes at any time from 7.30 a.m. onwards and being expected to go through the school day with, possibly, one meal at lunchtime, but with the increasing price of school meals the probability is that they have no meal at all during the day.

Welfare milk is provided for expectant and nursing mothers throughout the year. I am informed that the take-up of this welfare milk is at a very high level. This shows that where free milk is made available there is widespread recognition of its nutritional value, its sheer enjoyability, and its sheer necessity. This is why we condemn as strongly as we can the Government's decision to remove free welfare milk from schoolchildren.

Over the years the public have come to hold the opinion that there is a certain level of conventional humanitarianism accepted by everybody in public life. The public had come to accept that since the war a degree of natural justice, a feeling of compassion, had developed amongst people regardless of party, who put themselves before the public for election.

That opinion which was held by the public was justifiable until recent months. Now this atavistic Government have moved back to the priorities of a bygone age. In the name of respectability which has been referred to countless times—this curious and condescending respectability which is so much beloved of Tory M.P.s—the Government are removing what has come to be accepted as an inalienable right of school children—the right to free milk.

Most people believed until recently that anyone who entered public life at local authority or at national level had one priority which, though it might vary in degree, did not vary in purpose. That priority was to maximise the welfare of school children. The public believed that everyone in the House had that priority. It is no longer so. Opinion amongst parents, in the medical profession and in the teaching profession is unanimous in deploring and condemning this miserable Bill.

However many exemptions the Secretary of State chooses to make for sick and weakly children, no one will attach any credibility to the maxim she enunciated when she said that to condone certain public expenditure—at another point she referred to maintaining the larger purpose of the White Paper introduced by the Chancellor on 30th October—children aged 7 to 11 should have the right of school milk withdrawn. That is not an excuse for committing an act not of social negligence, but a socially divisive and ultimately a socially criminal and irresponsible act.

Medical and professional opinion is unanimous as to the value of free milk over the years during which it has been available. We are not talking about a sudden social revolution which began a few years ago. School milk was established 49 years ago. It is universally accepted by people of good will and common sense that children need milk. Since free milk became available for school children, the consumption of milk at school has risen and the health of children has become immeasurably better. I know that much of this could be attributed to increased affluence.

Anyone who has stood, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, North has, and as I have for a much shorter number of years, at junior school assemblies knows that even parents of affluence cannot be left to do everything. I have seen children of parents of this generation faint because they have been hungry. This is not an untruthful or scandalous statement. Every teacher in the House and outside if he has taught in even a normal urban district, let alone in a deprived area, has seen children vomit and faint at nine o'clock assembly, for the simple reason that whatever affluence our society has endowed their parents with it has not endowed them with the requisite sense of responsibility.

To define the responsibility of parents as the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) did in his condescending and feudalistic way was wrong. We must accept that in a civilised society the State and the appointed representatives of society should establish higher standards. If the majority of parents accept those standards, well and good. The vast majority of parents accept the standards laid down by the State. However, it must be acknowledged that some parents do not come up to those standards.

Our responsibility is to ensure that standards are raised. By the Bill the Government are ensuring that those standards will fall. It is not sufficient for the Secretary of State to say that children with a medical need will continue to receive milk. It is established beyond question that all children have a medical need for milk, and the Secretary of State acknowledged this. A concomitant of this is that it is the responsibility of society to maximise the welfare benefits to children.

Rather than gambling on the responsibility of parents or on local authorities, if we ensured beyond doubt that free milk was made available to schoolchildren it would cost a few million pounds. That is our function in Parliament. It is not sufficient to say that only the sick and the weakly will have the benefit of free milk from now on.

During our last debate on education I said that we are reintroducing a physical means test. Can the House visualise little boys of 8 to 10 acknowledging their weakliness by going to their teacher with a note or by going through some form-filling procedure to acknowledge that they are less strong, less well, less virile, less active, than their fellows? The Secretary of State is imposing ignominy on children at an age when it will cause them a deep and lasting grievance. I say that, without any kind of false compassion, as someone whose first interest is the welfare of children.

It is not enough to say that Dr. Lynch's researches were not conducted on the basis of clinical or physical examination. When one has seen children fainting it is not necessary to go through a tooth-combing research. It should be our pleasure to spend the minimal amount required to ensure that children get milk.

It is not enough to say that social security benefits are being increased. They are due to factors entirely extraneous to children's need for milk. They are factors which derive from the rising cost of living, not from the Government's misplaced sense of compassion.

It is not enough to say that the withdrawal of milk from secondary school children has no adverse effect and to try to justify this Government's action by that of the Labour Government. Had I been here when the Labour Government introduced legislation which had the effect of withdrawing milk from secondary school children, I should have been honoured to join those of my hon. Friends who had the plain common guts to go through the Lobby against their own Government. The notable absence of so-called progressives on the Government side indicates not only that they have not got the moral courage to come and speak but that they will hide behind their Whip to go through the Lobby in support of this thoroughly heinous Measure.

There are two aspects which show that public opinion, medical evidence and historical experience are against the Government and are a measure of their credibility. The first, which has already been referred to extensively so I will not bother the House too long, is the freedom of local authorities to operate. Both The Times and the Guardian on the same day drew attention to the fact that the Government, contrary to their declaration of independence for local authorities, both in their manifesto and on subsequent occasions, have incarcerated local authorities not only in this policy, but in others, with the bondage of their own prejudice. That was not forgotten a few weeks ago at the local elections, and it will not be forgotten at the next General Election.

The second aspect concerns the sense of priorities and the flimsy arguments which have been adduced by hon. Members opposite in support of the Bill. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South gave the impression that he was thin-skinned. He complained that certain of my hon. Friends called him a hypocrite. I do not consider that either he or the Secretary of State is a hypocrite. They were, they are, and they always will be, barbarians. This is a barbarian Bill which is the product of a barbarian mind. In that sense they are not hypocrites.

We had the reactionary utopianism of the hon. Members for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) and for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) saying that they would love to give universal benefits to everyone. I should like to remind those hon. Members of the kind of public opinion they are up against. People have rumbled the nonsense that they try to spout. I have a letter from a constituent in which he says: You of course know of the Monmouthshire County Council's protest to the Minister. This is a protest about milk which the Secretary of State has probably received. Also on Tuesday of last week the Monmouthshire County Officers' branch of N.A.L.G.O. sent a protest to the Miinster. The following day, Wednesday, 9th June, Bedwas and Machen Trades Council and Labour Party agreed to send a letter to the Minister again protesting. That same day, Bedwas Group of Primary School Managers recorded their support to the Monmouthshire County Council in their fight against the Government's proposals. Oddly enough, even though I seconded this proposition, it was moved by County Councillor Grimmer, a Conservative. This is a sample of public opinion on the basis that this is a small Bill involving a small amount of money but has massive implications for the future of our educational and political system.

I ask the Government, even at this late date, to withdraw the Bill. If not, I appeal to the courage of hon. Gentlemen opposite to vote against the Bill and with the people that they represent.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

It would have been very difficult for me to speak enthusiastically about the Bill—in Southampton, I received only two letters on this matter—but the extravagant phraseology of the Labour Party has led me to think that there is some defence for my right hon. Friend. We badger her for further education expenditure. I have lately been trying to get modernisation of a Victorian slum school in Southampton, called Deanery, and a dreadful little primary school Bassett Green, which was meant as a temporary school in the 1930s and is still with us.

We have heard from Labour Members some evidence that from 1930 to 1933 the height of children was dropping, but that it started rising again in 1945, and we have also heard of honey-combed teeth and rickets and of children fainting. But we have also heard about obesity among children. So the sheer extravagance of their arguments has led those on this side who could have been the friends of hon. Members opposite to go to the defence of our own Front Bench.

One of the more extravagant claims was that our Front Bench was ruthless. A less ruthless group of people one would go a long way to find. Ruthlessness is not a characteristic of my right hon. Friend. This must have been a very difficult decision for her. We are all demanding things on behalf of constituents and it is a case of trying to get a quart into a pint pot. Some hon. Members may think that £9 million is cheeseparing, but when faced with poor accommodation, temporary classrooms, nissen huts, children running from one class to another in inclement weather, this £9 million, if turned into bricks and mortar, would give some lucky cities 36 more primary schools.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

The hon. Member has this absolutely wrong. It is nothing to do with a choice between different resources to go on education. It is a choice between £9 million worth of free school milk for our children and a cut for surtax payers. That was the choice—and they made the wrong one.

Mr. Hill

I would not accept that for a moment. It is this doctrinaire nonsense which will make this effective Government strive more and more for savings which can be turned into more school buildings and educational facilities—and, if the country prospers, more tax cuts.

On the question of children fainting, I would go along with my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). As for parental responsibility, all hon. Members opposite who have the facts and figures at their fingertips will know how many children go to school without breakfast. That is why they faint. Parental responsibility starts at the beginning of the day, not at the milk break. If it is said that parental responsibility cannot go to the extent of making sure that a child has a breakfast, surely it should go to the extent of providing less than two shillings a week for this essential milk supply.

If these savings go towards further assistance in the educational sphere, I see nothing wrong with that. I should like to think that in the future, perhaps, if my right hon. Friend is so inclined, the age limit could be raised. But, once again, that is the quart demand and the pint pot.

It can be argued that the Bill increases the freedom of local authorities. To my amazement, the previous Government not only took away milk from secondary schools but did so without consulting the schools in any way. It seems ludicrous for hon. Members of the Opposition to bring forward the argument that the Government have done this without consultation. If local authorities, in their wisdom—I hope that Southampton may well follow this—find a need for this milk, I should be only too pleased if they provided the milk which seems to be lacking so often in the constituencies of the Opposition.

It was a very difficult decision for the Government to make. They have made it with every resource of the education service at their fingertips. I should like to think that tonight neither we nor the Opposition neede a three-line Whip, because everyone interested in education will see that this sort of Measure can only do good in the long term.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

Obviously the Government decided that they needed a three-line Whip because they have needed a Conservative Party brief to sustain them during the debate.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. James Hill) commented that only two of his constituents had written to him about this matter. I am not surprised that so few of his constituents expect Conservative Members of Parliament to be interested in the subject.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) seemed to suggest that our opposition to the Bill was because we wanted to raise another £3,000 million of taxation. This was followed by a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), who said that the total savings on public expenditure as a result of the decision to cease to provide milk in secondary schools were really only £1.2 million. In an intervention, I said to the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State that I thought it was less than £1½ million, but we understand that the net savings on public expenditure were £1.2 million. That came from the failure to provide milk for children between the ages of 11 and 18.

Let us suppose that the child in the secondary school stays there for an average of five or five and a half years; we save £1.2 million. How can the Secretary of State expect to save a total of £9 million when the child is in the junior school for only about four years? Looking at it carefully, it seems to me that the true saving in public expenditure will be about £2 million, putting it at its most generous, not much more than 3p per head per year. In order to save 3p per head per year, we are to deprive primary school children of free milk. For this we risk not merely a deterioration in the dietary pattern of the country, which demands that warning signals should be made clear, but frustration in local government.

The Conservative Party promised that local government would have more freedom and that there would be some devolution and that councillors would not be rubber stamps. I was a councillor myself and I heard slogans of that sort until the election. But now local authorities will find their freedom greatly reduced. I hope that they will protest about the Bill. I hope that when my own area provides its own Labour education authority, it will seek power to provide free milk. I would rather accept its judgment than that of the Department, because councillors know their areas and the needs of their areas and are able to give the matter far closer consideration than can any Department.

The Government offer the defence that free milk will be available to some who need it. This is an imperfect arrangement, imperfect in that it could cause many of those who would qualify to be reluctant to do so. I know of constituents who refuse to ask for free meals and who will refuse to ask for free milk, because they will not wish to risk their children being embarrassed. This is particularly so in some of the more affluent areas where only a small minority of children would qualify and where the parents of such children are conscious that they are in a minority and are, therefore, more reluctant to claim these privileges. They may feel that there is an unfairness about it; they may feel embarrassed about asking.

But they are not the only people who will be embarrassed by this extension of the theory of selectivity. The Government will be extremely embarrassed by this approach at the next General Election. The Government suggest that drinks should be sold. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) has now left the Chamber. I, too, was teaching in a secondary school before the last election, and we, too, had vending machines. We had to stop using them, because they caused many problems. Although we had, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, North said he had, an adequate number, we still had about 200 children per vending machine.

I gather that, being a Conservative, the hon. Member would conduct his school duties on effective but nevertheless traditional lines. If he conducted his school on traditional lines, I cannot understand how he could expect 200 children to get a drink from a vending machine during one playtime. If he did he must have had one of those progressive schools where there are no timetables, no lessons, no subjects, very little discipline and the kids may go in and out as and when they feel like it. I may be old-fashioned, but I should not have thought that that sort of school was very effective. But it is only that sort of school which could use vending machines effectively, even though the education system itself might not be very good.

The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) ducked the question when I intervened in his speech to point out that even a vending machine arrangement in a school was scarcely satisfactory, and I should like the Secretary of State to reconsider that. Another consideration is that if vending machines are installed, the children will spend the whole playtime queuing up, so that not merely will they be deprived of school milk, but many will be consistently deprived of fresh air during the 15-minute break which they should be enjoying outside.

The Secretary of State said that the cost of this provision would be met by the families, and that social security benefits and wages had risen so that people were able to meet it. If this were the only cost which people were incurring, that would be entirely reasonable, but rents are rising, food prices are enormously higher, and the cost of services is increasing day by day.

It is reasonable to suppose that, although some people may have benefited considerably, the majority are not benefiting to such an extent that they can afford to bear an additional imposition of this sort. Although many parents may be prepared to make sacrifices to buy an alternative provision in the early weeks following this imposition, the continuing inflation which we are experiencing will mean that more and more find it increasingly difficult to give the children the extra money which they need.

The Government's defence is that the Labour Government stopped the provision of milk in secondary schools. I was not enthusiastic about that reduction, but the situation in the primary school is entirely different. At least one-third of children in secondary schools in my area never took their free school milk—the girls, I think, largely because they were afraid of getting too fat—but in primary schools, in which I taught for a period, the vast majority of children take the milk.

An important matter was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Bed-wellty (Mr. Kinnock) when he spoke of children fainting. In my teaching career, I have know many children to faint, often because they had had a light breakfast. Boys or girls of 12 or 13 are able to get some breakfast for themselves, but children of eight or nine are much less able to do so. I should hate to think that we were condemning hundreds or thousands of children to leave home for school and have to wait at least until lunch time before they had some sustenance.

The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South told us that he drank two pints of milk a day. Perhaps it does him far more good than some other beverages which have been mentioned, but the hon. Gentleman scarcely needs two pints of milk a day. On the other hand, there are many children in my constituency and elsewhere whose parents could not afford two pints of milk a day. Until we have a situation in which parents can well afford all that their children need, this Government ought not, in our so-called civilised society, to seek to add a dreadful imposition of this kind.

8.57 p.m.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

I return to the subject of my intervention in the right hon. Lady's speech, namely, that of a nutrition survey. If ever such a survey were needed, it is needed in connection with this squalid Bill. The Government's suggested survey is a squalid commentary on the nation's electorate. It is typical of a Tory Government to suggest that it should be carried out in Croydon, Bristol and Sheffield, three of the richest towns in the country. The proposal is arrant nonsense.

If the survey is to mean anything at all, it must be carried out in an area like Tyneside. I commend to the right hon. Lady two riverside schools in my constituency, in Denton Road and Delaval Road, an area in which many underprivileged people live and many underprivileged children are taught.

The right hon. Lady should get together with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and try to retrieve some semblance of credit among the electorate, that credit which the Government have completely lost by their dishonest dealings with the people. Let them agree that the nutrition survey should take place on Tyneside, on Clyde-side and in the valleys of South Wales. If it is to mean anything, that is clearly where the survey should take place.

The Newcastle Journal of 2nd June, under the headline Tories rebel over school milk—angry councillors warn Government [An HON. MEMBER: "The Government are not interested."]—No, especially when they find that their colleagues, some progressive colleagues in the country, are condemning them. The Newcastle Journal said: Newcastle Education Committee is opposing the Government's decision to raise school meal prices and withdraw free milk. Last night members unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Government to reconsider its Bill stopping the supply of free milk to the seven-to-11-year-old age group. At the same time the Chairman, Alderman Doctor Cyril Lipman —who was my Tory opponent in the 1970 election— hinted that if the Bill became law the city might find loop-holes to continue providing free milk. It is to the credit of Dr. Lipman and his Tory colleagues on the education committee, allied with our members on the education committee, that they condemn the Government out of hand for their action. There are colleagues of mine who would criticise me for giving him any credit. They might well say that with the message of Thursday, 13th May, of the electors of Newcastle ringing loudly in his ears, he found this a convenient thing to do. But I believe that he is an educationist before he is a Tory and that he is extremely concerned for the children of Newcastle, who are not swimming in rich gravy by any means, that this disastrous Measure should be opposed.

I ask the Secretary of State to take note of the protestations of some of her own colleagues in a city that has always been noted for a progressive education committee.

9.2 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

Hon. Members on this side of the House and some hon. Members opposite, have treated this matter with fitting gravity and seriousness. I was sorry that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) spoke in the way that he did, dealing with the subject in a hilarious way, and lowering the debate to a level to which it ought never to have been allowed to deteriorate. I was sorry that phrases like "soup-kitchen mentality" were introduced into the debate. Some of us who have been responsible, as I have, for dealing with school meals and milk have never regarded their provision as in any way comparable with a soup-kitchen mentality.

We must stress at the outset that, as the Secretary of State said, no advice was taken about what is likely to happen as a result of the withdrawal of free milk. We were advised when we withdrew free milk in secondary schools, that it would be harmful to do the same in primary schools.

Professor John Yudkin, who is a member of the committee of the Department of Health and Social Security on the medical aspects of food policy, said that the children's milk issue had not been put to his committee and asked, What the hell's the use of sitting on the committee if it isn't asked about this supremely important issue? This was reported on 27th October last year. Professor Yudkin added that the cuts would be the most retrograde step that could be taken. Children and parents were being tempted increasingly to consume things of low nutritional value. To offer a child at playtime a soft drink instead of milk was to offer it an almost irresistible alternative. Someone had to divert the child's hand from the soft drink bottle to the milk bottle. I am amazed, to say the least, that the views of people like Yudkin and others have been disregarded.

The right hon. Lady said that a survey was to be carried out, but she has been extremely selective in her choice of areas. She says that she intends to give effect to what is found by the survey, but that seems to me to be rather like bolting the stable door after the horse has gone, because the right hon. Lady gave us no guarantee that if the results of the inquiry are what we believe they will be—which is that over a period of time there will be a detrimental effect on the health of children—the Government will immediately reintroduce the supply of free milk to children in primary schools. There seems to be little point in having the survey if its findings are not to be put into effect.

I hope that the results of that survey will not be treated in the way that the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) treated the interim report of the survey of the Queen Elizabeth College. The right hon. Lady said that she would not accept the report of the survey unless various things were done. I view with great apprehension what will happen after this survey is carried out in selective areas and shows that grave dfficulties are being caused for these children. We have not been given any guarantee that anything positive will come from it.

Many hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked about exceptions under the Bill. They have said that if there is a medical need, if children are in special schools, and so on, they will still be entitled to free milk. As I put to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, there is no provision in the Bill for poverty. That is not to be one of the criteria for the provision of free milk. The right hon. Lady said that as there is now provision for the payment of family income supplement, as social security benefits have been increased and as there will be more free school meals, the need to provide free milk is not so great. The right hon. Lady and hon. Gentlemen opposite are guilty of an omission, and any error of judgment, because they continually confuse eligibility with take-up. One of the biggest indictments of any system of welfare provision is that the provision is there if people need it, but they have to apply for it; but we know that the take-up falls far short of the provision.

That statement is borne out by what was said by the Secretary of State for Social Services, that despite a £340,000 advertising campaign by the Government more than three-quarters of those entitled to free milk, welfare foods, free prescription, free dental and other treatment have failed to apply for those benefits. The Government have estimated that 190,000 people are entitled to claim free welfare foods and milk. The figures given on 11th May by the Secretary of State show that up to 27th April the number of claims was only 23 per cent. of that figure. It is no good arguing that where there is eligibility there will be take-up, because hon. Gentlemen opposite will find that view impossible to prove. Eligibility does not mean that people take up the benefits to which they are entitled.

References to soup-kitchen mentalities and lame ducks discourage people from taking up the things to which they are entitled because it makes them feel that they are not welcome to those benefits. It makes them feel that if they are poor, or inadequate, or in some other way unfortunate, they are grudgingly given these things by society. The effect of using phrases such as those is shown by the lack of take-up of many of the benefits provided by society, for the simple reason that people feel that they are being labelled in that way.

It cannot be argued that because there is a family income supplement everything is taken care of. It seems that the supplement is intended to cover a variety of sins. It has to cover everything out of £7 million. The right hon. Lady said that we spent more on milk than on school books. I do not know whether the inference was that we shall now be spending more on school books; I hope so. I know that she intends to spend more on primary schools. Perhaps she will tell us whether more will be spent on books.

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a bigger improvement element this year in the rate support grant.

Miss Lestor

It has been suggested that school milk was being withdrawn so as to give relief to surtax payers. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said that it was doctrinaire and stupid to say that, but I do not know where the money has come from if it has not come from reductions in social welfare services. Let us further consider what was done in the Budget this year. The £15 to £20 million that the Labour party put into the public purse was taken out again by the disaggregation of a child's income. The way in which taxation applied to the income of parents and children enabled parents to pay for their children to go to public and independent schools. We altered the basis of taxation so as to prevent that, but the Conservative Government have put back the old system. That £15 to £20 million is twice the amount which, on the right hon. Lady's figures, would be saved by the withdrawal of school milk.

This is likely to be the way in which the public will judge it. We cannot afford to give free school milk to children, but we can afford to subsidise the rich to enable them to pay for their children to go to schools such as Eton, in my con- stituency. This is an odd set of values. I should like an explanation why we should give relief to surtax payers and put back between £15 and £20 million into the pockets of rich people for the purpose of subsidising public school education.

The Evening Standard tonight and the Guardian and The Times on Saturday pointed out what the Prime Minister said at the time of the General Election: The most urgent reform of local government is to get the Government spanner out of the works. Under Labour there can never be real reform of local government for they will always seek to use their powers to bend local authorities to their will. It will be for a Conservative Government to restore to the local elector and the local councillor the freedom of action he needs to make life better for himself and his fellow-citizens and to control his own destiny and that of the community. Surely local authorities should be allowed to make the choice. Perhaps this is something else that the Prime Minister did not mean when he said it, or perhaps he has been misquoted. It is an odd situation that, when the Government have the opportunity to give freedom to local authorities, they refuse to allow them that freedom. The same point was made on Second Reading of the Education (Scotland) Bill.

On this question of freedom for local authorities, let me remind the right hon. Lady that this was what all the row in comprehensive education was about. This is what the row at Enfield was about. She wanted freedom for local authorities, but now we are not to have it. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite have seen the evidence put forward by the legal department of the G.L.C. on behalf of the Inner London Education Authority. It has made a statement to which consideration ought to be given. Perhaps it will be mentioned in the wind-up speech. The statement says that this is … a retrograde step, the effects of which can only be plainly discernible after it has been in operation for some considerable time. In the meanwhile it will fall on us and our staff to implement the proposal and to ascertain which children in this age group require free school milk on health grounds. While we do not feel that any set standard of height or weight should be regarded as the criterion and believe that the decision should rest on the clinical judgment of the doctor concerned, we nevertheless feel that he will be placed in a difficult position without having any definite guide as to the standards he has to adopt. We understand that the Department of Education and Science is not willing to lay down any set standards. We are moreover concerned at the effect on the parent/doctor relationship and conseqently on the whole relationship between the parent and the school health service. The parents of some children whom we consider to be in continued need of school milk will disagree with our decision and conversely some parents of children for whom we do not consider continuation of milk necessary will think that they do need it. It goes on in detail and makes the point: We appreciate that the judgment of the doctor making the decision in any individual case must be based solely on medical grounds but think that there could well be social grounds why a child should or should not be given free school milk and regret that there is no parallel in the proposed legislation. This is something that has not been given the careful consideration it needs. Nor have many of the medical and other views put forward. The question of the care of teeth has received a great deal of publicity since this Bill was announced. A total of £80 million is spent on dental care, including dentures. Dentures among children are much more common than they were. We know that milk is one of the main requirements for creating good strong teeth. I find the ignoring of this point very disturbing. All the evidence put out to warn the Government is being completely ignored on the principle that parents must learn to feed their own children.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) said that all children up to the age of seven will continue to receive free milk. That is not true. There is a situation among the under-fives which puzzles me. Why is it that children in nursery schools, playgroups and other pre-school and registered establishments, according to the Secretary of State for Social Services, will continue to receive free milk, while children at home with their mothers will continue to be deprived of cheap welfare milk? That may not be in the Bill but it is a fact. I am in favour of children in nursery schools receiving the milk, of course, but I do not understand why those at home should not receive it, bearing in mind not only the maldistribution of nursery schools throughout the country but that many children in playgroups are there—not all but some—because their parents are able to pay the playgroup fee whereas many are not in playgroups because their parents cannot afford it. There has not been, and there is not likely to be under this Government, any further development of free nursery schools started under the last government.

I do not understand how the Government have got themselves into this situation. They may say that provision to this effect is not in the Bill and therefore it does not matter. Many speeches by hon. Members opposite have had little to do with what is in the Bill, but we have had to listen to them and suffer as a result. This may seem to be a small point, but, as somebody who has a lot to do with children in schools, I am not happy about the classification "medical milk". It is not good for a child to know that he is receiving free milk because there is something wrong with him. It could have a bad psychological effect on him. These matters can be explained to older children but this is not a wise classification in respect of younger children. The right hon. Lady should drop the term "medical milk" very quickly.

The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) said that he would like this to be an ideal society. Would not we all? We are further from it than we were a year ago. He said that there was a limited amount of money available for education, and we had to decide the best way in which to spend it. Making sure that children have at least one-third of a pint of milk a day is one of the best ways in which we can spend it.

The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South, whose speech was, I think, the most disgraceful I have heard since I have been a Member, talked about his fine figure. If his speech is one of the results of all the milk that he drinks, it may feed the body but it certainly does not feed the mind. Looking at him and listening to him, I thought that we were in a circus where a clown had taken over. The hon. Gentleman fell into the trap of talking about poverty and said that poor children will get free school milk. But they will not.

I must ask the Under-Secretary of State to comment on the big drop in the take-up of school meals, which is relevant to the Bill and why many local authorities are reacting so strongly to it. There has been a 20 per cent. drop in Slough. According to the survey carried out so far, the drop in Brent is much the same. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a Conservative-controlled authority, says that the Bill should not go through because people are worried about the nutritional effects it will have on children. Someone talked about children fainting in school because they had not had any breakfast. Perhaps it is suggested that they will have a longer faint if their milk is taken away. This is logic gone mad. I accept completely that many parents need to be educated about nutrition—not only about under-feeding but about overfeeding. But we do not do it by saying, "We shall not give your children free school milk, even if they faint". Positive steps must be taken in educating people in these matters.

If, as the Government say, people must stand on their own feet and lame ducks and soup-kitchen mentalities are the results of welfare services, where shall we go next? If it is said that parents can buy milk for their children and that it is not up to the Government to provide it, I would point out that they can also buy books for their children. Will the right hon. Lady or somebody else on her side of the House suggest that we should start cutting the public libraries and that we should have public libraries only for poor children? People can buy swings at Harrods and Gaits. Is it to be said, "We shall not provide these things"? Hon. Members shake their heads. What is the difference between saying, "You can buy milk. Therefore, we shall not give it to you" and saying, "You can buy swings and books. Therefore, they will not be provided"?

I get sick and tired of listening to hon. Members on that side of the House talking about "free"—free milk, free this and free that. Everybody who is a taxpayer or a ratepayer is paying for these services. When I see children getting milk, when I see children having access to libraries, when I see, as we saw under the last Administration, a great development of free nursery education, I am glad and I am happy that my taxes and rates should go to that provision. It is being paid for, and the people who are being deprived of this free milk are already paying for it out of taxation. In fact, of course, the money which is to be saved is going to bolster up other people who do not need it. That is the terrible thing.

Mr. Crouch

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Lestor

Very briefly.

Mr. Crouch

I will be very brief, and I am grateful to her. Again she is misleading the House in suggesting that there has been any suggestion on this side of the House of reducing facilities in education. My right hon. Friend has been at great pains over the last year to show how she is trying to redirect and produce better facilities.

Miss Lestor

What I said was, what is the next principle—what is to come next? If this is the principle, I must suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he reads some of the Bow Group publications. He will find what some of the suggestions are. I hope that, as a result of my putting up that warning, the Government will not do these things. I was asking, if this is the principle, where do we go from here?

The right hon. Lady last Thursday said that those of us who were arguing for free school milk and subsidised meals were saying, in effect, that parents are incapable of looking after the nutritional requirements of their children. Nobody on this side of the House has said that. That argument could well be applied in reference to a large variety of services which are already provided for children, and some of them I have mentioned. Is the right hon. Lady saying that only those people incapable of looking after the nutritional requirements of their children should get free milk and subsidised meals? If she is accusing us of saying that, or of saying it of the majority, we must ask her what her criterion is. I believe the right hon. Lady has never taught in school.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have.

Miss Lestor

Oh, then the right hon. Lady cannot be forgiven. I was going to forgive her, but now she cannot be forgiven. Those of us who have taught know, as I know, that young children—and it is true of older children also, come to that—will eat in school what they will not eat at home, and that they will drink milk when in a community. [Laughter.] Do not let hon. Members laugh about this, because it is a very important point. Everybody concerned with the nutrition and diet of children knows this to be a fact. Most parents know it to be a fact. If the right hon. Lady has taught in school she should have known that this provision is worth preserving. Nothing she has said indicates that she has any experience of it—[An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Lady is being rather rude."]—I am being rather rude? The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South was rather rude. Hon. Members opposite did not object to that, did they? I can be as rude as the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South can be any day.

I do not want to get involved—for they are not relevant to this debate—in arguments about other aspects of public expendtiture, except to say this: I believe that it is a public outrage that we as a country see Concorde costing at least £1,000 million, maybe more, half of which we shall be paying, and yet here we are arguing about £9 million—and £9 million minus, because it will not be that much which will be saved. When people talk about saving money it seems to me that the Government look for the meanest, narrowest ways in which to do so, and that is what I believe most people in this country, including a large number of Conservatives, feel about this Bill, that it is hitting at those least able to take it. It is moving away from a principle we have always followed in this country, for we have always shown a great deal of concern for our children. Now the Government cannot give this measure of compassion, and not only turn the welfare services from those in need in terms of poverty but take away what we regard as a right of every child.

This is why we call this Bill a miserable Bill, and that is why I feel in my heart that this is only one of many steps which are yet to come. It is only right that I should put this warning out to the public this evening.

9.30 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office (Mr. Edward Taylor)

We have had an interesting debate in which I have had the pleasure of hearing, for the second time during my parliamentary life a maiden speech by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell). I heard him on many occasions speak with great conviction and at length on the Ports Bill upstairs in Committee. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing him again.

We also had some well-informed contributions from members of the teaching profession, including the hon. Members for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) and for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) and others.

The debate has covered a great deal of ground, and one matter with which I had intended to deal was the relevance of the Bill to Scotland. We have had no speaker on either side of the House from Scotland. This is understandable today in view of those hon. Members' minds being on other matters.

Mr. James Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman must recognise that I was trying to get into the debate and will remember that I had an Adjournment debate on this matter. I told the House a little earlier that many of us from Scotland were busily engaged in fighting for U.C.S., but I have been here during this debate.

Mr. Taylor

I was not trying to cast any reflection on Scottish Members who attend the Chamber with great regularity, particularly the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) who, as he said, raised this matter on the Adjournment. I was only trying to apologise for answering questions which had not been asked.

The Bill will affect Scotland differently in regard to the date of operation for sever-year-olds. We take 1st August as the effective date instead of a date after the summer term since the school holidays in Scotland are different from those in England. Secondly, children in Scotland who receive milk for certain health reasons can receive it for a year longer simply because children in Scotland normally stay at primary school a year longer.

I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor). It is interesting that whenever we come forward with a plan of any sort involving cuts in public expenditure or a reduction in services, the Opposition say that it is wrong or outrageous. On the other hand, whenever we ask for suggestions as to where the money is to come from, they are reluctant to tell us—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about surtax?"]—I will deal specifically with the tax question a little later.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get back to your brief."]—I am not reading a brief.

The hon. Lady said that it was strange that on the one hand we were spending millions on Concorde, and yet on the other hand were cutting free school milk, which will save us £9 million. I suggest that that argument is just not good enough. We all know that if anything were to happen to the Concorde project because of any action by this Government, there would be uproar, alarm and complaints of outrage expressed by the Opposition. They cannot have it all ways, as the hon. Lady and her Friends have been trying to do.

The hon. Lady then asked, since we are seeing cuts in school milk, what was to come next? She said that all kinds of terrible things were just around the corner. She was being unfair to my right hon. Friend who, with her colleagues in the Cabinet, have fought vigorously and hard for increases in social services where there is a need and to fill in the gaps which were left by the previous Administration in making good deficiencies which have existed for so long.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Will the hon. Gentleman give a firm and binding assurance that there will be no more charges in respect of the education services during the lifetime of this Parliament?

Mr. Taylor

What I can say is that any provision made by this Government will be wholly consistent with what we set out in the White Paper. I will give a clear and absolute guarantee that this Administration will be more able to meet the real needs of the social services than was the previous Administration.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that, apart from the changes brought about in the charges for school meals and in the provision of school milk, we have made provision for an additional £28 million to be spent on the primary schools where it is needed, consistent with the promises made by this Administration at the last election? We have also provided more than £100 million for health and social services where needed. We are carrying out the promise to try to make good the services which were not provided by the previous Administration because the cash was not there. This is what we are doing and will continue to do.

A number of different points have been raised during the debate and I will endeavour to deal with as many of them as I can. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) mentioned one of his constituents who had experienced difficulty in a child taking drinks to school and packed lunches. I was surprised to hear this, but if he would send details of the case to my right hon. Friend, I am sure she will be only too glad to look at it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) referred to two points. [HON. MEMBERS: Where is he?"] My hon. Friend has been present for most of the debate and made an interesting contribution. He asked about the provision of milk for independent and direct grant schools. The position is that under Clause 1(3) local authorities have a power, but not a duty, to supply milk to children at independent and direct grant schools. The situation is unchanged in regard to this provision compared with previous legislation.

Mr. Buchan

Having said that there is a power in regard to grant-aided independent schools, will the hon. Member now say that the same power will be given to local authorities in the fee-paying sector?

Mr. Taylor

I was referring to local authorities having power to do the same for direct grant schools as they have the power to do for their own schools, namely, to provide milk to the age groups mentioned in the Bill.

I will deal with the two main points which were raised by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) and by the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough about the exemptions which are provided. On the question of health, the right hon. Gentleman, whom I greatly respect, indicated that C.O.M.A. advised in 1968 that the withdrawal of milk from primary schoolchildren would have adverse nutritional effects. I cannot answer for the actions of the previous Administration, but this is not the advice that I have been given now by the same Committee, and I find it difficult to believe that it took a different line in 1968.

Here again, I cannot speak about what happened before. I can say that within days of the White Paper being published C.O.M.A. considered the proposals and endorsed the view of the Chief Medical Officer, who is C.O.M.A.'s Chairman, that it was not possible to say whether the withdrawal of milk from the over-sevens would have any adverse effect on their health. C.O.M.A., did, however, recommend that there should be careful monitoring. This is now being arranged under the guidance of C.O.M.A.'s own Sub-Committee on Nutritional Surveillance. The question was raised as to the nature of this monitoring, whether it would be adequate and whether it would cover the right areas. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, West—

Mr. Bob Brown

On a point of order. Newcastle-under-Lyme is a village down in the Midlands. Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a city in the North.

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) asked whether something could be done for areas like Newcastle. I can give him some helpful information. The Sub-Committee on Nutritional Surveillance is to form views on the withdrawal of milk by conducting a survey in five areas. One will be in Scotland, one in Wales, and three in England. Apart from that, we shall have the general study of children's health, which will be conducted in Scotland on the basis of three ad hoc special studies being carried on in England. One, which is being carried out in Kent, is a fairly large-scale study of children's health. One to be conducted in Newcastle-upon-Tyne will be a study of the health of poverty children. One to be conducted in Birmingham will be a study of the general nutritional level of children aged 14 and 15. The Scottish statistics of height and weight are very comprehensive indeed and can be used for comparisons. The data in England and Wales generally are to be brought up to the same standard. These will enable us to carry out this monitoring very accurately and ensure that we get the best possible results as quickly as possible.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the Under-Secretary explain that? We do not understand it. Is the last one he mentioned—the child health study—related specifically to the withdrawal of primary school milk, or is it something else?

Mr. Taylor

The revision of the figures which are being used as data will cover many things and not just this. We hope that the up-to-date information to be provided on height and weight will give us information on a wide range of questions. Apart from that, we are having specific monitoring surveys in the areas to which I have referred. We believe that on the basis of the Scottish survey we can come to a quicker decision or a quicker opinion on information which comes forward, and this general updating of data will enable a better picture to be arrived at sooner.

The right hon. Gentleman then said that it was all very well to have the survey but asked what would be done if it showed that the position had deteriorated. I can give the right hon. Gentleman the categorical assurance that if the surveys produced an adverse result, we would reconsider the whole situation, first, to identify whether any such deterioration had occurred and, second, to ascertain whether this deterioration was attributable to the withdrawal of free milk. If we found that out, the whole policy would have to be considered.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in research terms he has given an impossible remit? It is impossible to give answers to the remit he has given.

Mr. Taylor

It is not an impossible task. We have asked for this to be done. As the hon. Gentleman himself suggested, it should be done. We have asked for a full survey of the effects of the withdrawal of milk. This we are doing. Once the evidence comes forward, of course we will consider it very carefully. [Interruption.] That comes ill from the hon. Gentleman, who supported his Government throughout when they withdrew milk from secondary schoolchildren.

Mr. Freeson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the vast majority of people on this side of the House—I cannot speak for hon. Members opposite—and many people outside the House who are interested in this subject will consider, when they read in HANSARD tomorrow what he has just said, that he has been totally misleading the House and the public?

Mr. Taylor

I do not accept that for one minute. I will not take that from the hon. Gentleman in particular, because we have to remember that this is not the first time that free milk has been withdrawn from schools. It was withdrawn from secondary schools by the Labour Government. I should like the hon. Gentleman in particular just to look back at HANSARD for 26th February, 1968. There he will see that certain of his hon. Friends asked this very same question, whether milk should be withdrawn from secondary schools, without there being a survey of poverty and without there being full consideration of what was involved. Labour Members voted against it, and I see that the hon. Gentleman time after time supported his Government. I am only too glad to listen to objections from some hon. Members opposite who I know are considering the matter sincerely. I am only too glad to consider valid objections.

It has been argued that our safeguards are not adequate. When the Labour Government abolished free milk where were the safeguards? When there was any suggestion of any sort about safeguards the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) and, indeed, the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) voted slavishly with their Government time after time.

Having dealt with that matter, I should like to mention the attitudes and tasks of medical officers of health under these arrangements. Much has been said about the difficulties which will face medical officers in selecting pupils for free school milk. I suggest that these difficulties have been exaggerated. Medical officers should know from their routine examinations of pupils which children are likely to be at risk when the period of automatic issue of free milk comes to an end. For example, my authority in Glasgow finds little difficulty in selecting children who, on health grounds, should attend residential schools in the country for a brief spell. It therefore seems reasonable that among this group will be found those children who should continue to get milk. There will be difficulties when the new scheme is introduced, but I am sure that they can be overcome.

Hon. Members have said that it is all very well to talk of exempting children on health grounds and giving them free milk, but, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough said, what about those who cannot afford it on financial grounds, apart from health grounds? The hon. Lady will be aware that, consistent with the policy of this Administration, not only in education but throughout the social services, we have been arranging for help to be given to those in need. For example, supplementary benefits will go up on 20th September; unemployment benefit is to go up, sickness benefit is to go up, widows' pensions are to go up, and allowances are going up. For those on very limited incomes, the family income supplement is being provided to help the very poor. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but to some families it is not chicken feed. I suggest that to a family on a low income £4 a week is an important amount. All our policies are concerned with concentrating help where it is needed.

Most hon. Members opposite who have spoken have suggested in emotive language that the Government's policy as set out in the Bill is a wicked attack on the health of school children and a gross interference with the right of local authorities to decide how they shall carry out their functions. In face of this attack, which seems thoroughly unjustified, it is right to repeat, as my right hon. Friend did at the beginning of the debate, what we are proposing and why we are doing it.

We believe that the country cannot afford to continue to give benefits in cash or in kind indiscriminately, regardless of need. What we can afford and what we intend to do is to give benefits, and where appropriate improved benefits, some of which I have already mentioned, to those in real need, but to expect those who can well afford to pay to do so. The Bill is a reflection of that policy. We agree that children up to seven years of age should continue to get free milk in school. We say that handicapped pupils at special schools will continue to get free milk, whatever their age, and that those older primary pupils who, on medical grounds, need milk will continue to get it free. We are ensuring that children who need milk will get the free issue.

This is a reasonable extension of what was done by the Labour Government when they abolished milk for secondary schools. I emphasise that when they abolished it no provision was made for those who were considered to be in health need and there was no provision for the kind of careful monitoring which we are carrying out.

Time and again during the debate we heard the old hardy annual—it is, I accept, the crunch of the argument about our policies in the White Paper: how can we justify reducing taxation which could be of real benefit and value to those in the higher income groups and at the same time make adjustments in and increase the charges for prescriptions, milk and so on? This is perhaps the crunch of the argument.

It is true that if we had avoided the measures which we took in the social field and had not reduced taxation, it might have been possible to balance the books, square the account and close the story for this year. In this way, we would be carrying out the policy of the previous Government which led to stagnation, to a static national cake, and made it certain that it would just not be possible to continue to provide for the needs of the social services.

I am a junior Minister responsible for health and education in Scotland. When we consider the future in social trends, we can see the great needs which exist and the greater needs which will have to be coped with in the social work services, hospitals and elsewhere. Obviously we shall have to find more resources and more money to fill the gaps. Where will this money come from? There are two ways.

First, we could decide that every extra demand on resources should result in increased taxation and that, from a virtually static national cake, more and more should be taken in taxation. The economy would not grow, and our young graduates would be encouraged to go abroad for the opportunities which they cannot get in this country.

Instead, what we are trying to do is precisely what the last Conservative Government did—namely, greatly to increase social spending on housing, health and other areas of real need and, at the same time, reduce taxation so as to provide an incentive. Once our policies work their way through, they will ensure real prosperity and growth. This is the only way in which it can be done.

If hon. Members opposite are suggesting that we should, in this Bill or in future, consider and continue indiscriminate subsidies throughout the social services, I would point out that this could not be done unless we were prepared to face up to the situation of stagnation which was developing. In this Bill we are making a contribution. We are saving money—£9 million. This is one of the measures outlined in the White Paper. We believe that it is a justified saving, that it will make a contribution to the increases in our expenditure in other fields. We believe that we have made proper provision for those who are in medical need of milk.

I would like to outline the safeguards which we have provided. We have made specific provision for those who require milk on health grounds to continue to get it. We are continuing the supply of milk to children aged seven and under. Perhaps most important of all, we are making specific provision for proper monitoring and for a survey to be undertaken so that we can ensure that, if there is deterioration, the appropriate steps can then be taken.

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)

The hon. Member has a point about the survey, but surely to take a survey over the whole of our young children is wrong. Should not the Government have done the survey in a couple of schools instead of putting all the young children at risk?

Mr. Taylor

The survey which is being undertaken and which will continue to be undertaken covers not only pilot studies of various schools but also special surveys covering particular groups of children—for example, fatherless children or those in a particular age group.

We have no reason to believe that the health of those who will no longer receive free milk will suffer. There is no evidence to suggest that the health of secondary pupils has suffered from the withdrawal of milk, a withdrawal which hon. Gentlemen opposite voted for. But we are not content to rely on the belief that what has apparently been true of the health of secondary pupils will also be true of the older primary pupils. We will monitor the effects of the change of health of pupils, and arrangements for this are already in train.

Mr. Buchan


Mr. Taylor

I will not give way; I have only a few minutes.

I turn to the allegation that this decision represents interference with the freedom of local authorities and that it is inconsistent with our declared policy to allow them to make their own decisions. We are discussing the limitation of public expenditure and the most effective and efficient use of resources which are necessarily limited. Public expenditure is not only expenditure by central Government; it includes local authority expenditure and the spending of money raised by rates as well as that raised by taxation.

Mr. Buchan


Mr. Taylor

If we are to revive our economy through a limitation of the excessive amount of public expenditure which we inherited from the previous Administration, and if we are to ensure that what must be spent is spent effectively on those who really need help, all public expenditure must be controlled. It would be absurd for this or any Government to countenance unlimited spending by local authorities while firmly controlling Government expenditure. This means that local authorities cannot be wholly free to determine their expenditure. We are allowing them to be as free as possible, subject to the overriding demands of the national economy and, indeed, of the law.

Some hon. Members have suggested that there are authorities which are so convinced of the desirability of continuing the indiscriminate issue of milk to older primary schoolchildren that they will do so regardless of what the Bill says. I doubt whether any authority would be so unwise as to contemplate a deliberate breach of the law, and I certainly hope that no hon. Member would

encourage any authority so to do. I need not spell out what action would be open to the Government if faced by such a challenge. Those who might be concerned w2l no doubt bear in mind the Government's general powers to reduce rate support grant in certain circumstances and, indeed, to surcharge the members of any council responsible for authorising any illegal expenditure.

It is absolute nonsense for hon. Members to suggest that we have to control national public spending, on the one hand, and then suggest that local authorities should be free to spend what money they wish for whatever purposes they wish. Clearly, this could well undermine the whole of the Government's economic policy. I hope that no hon. Gentleman opposite will encourage any local authority to undertake anything which is illegal.

If there is a question of freedom, I ask; where was the freedom from the right hon. Gentleman when his Government abolished the provision of milk in secondary schools? Did the right hon. Gentleman give freedom to local authorities to provide milk in secondary schools? Where was the freedom then? I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman: if he is now demanding that we should have freedom for the local authorities to do what they want, where was the freedom when he and his hon. Friends voted for the abolition of free milk in secondary schools? On this matter, as on many others, the attitudes put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite are blatant hypocrisy today and every day.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 281, Noes 248.

Division No. 374.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Adley, Robert Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Astor, John Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Atkins, Humphrey Balniel, Lord
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Awdry, Daniel Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Batsford, Brian Cower, Raymond Murton, Oscar
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Gray, Hamish Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Bell, Ronald Green, Alan Neave, Airey
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Grylls, Michael Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gummer, Selwyn Normanton, Tom
Biffen, John Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Nott, John
Biggs-Davison, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Onslow, Cranley
Blaker, Peter Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Body, Richard Hannam, John (Exeter) Osborn, John
Boscawen, Robert Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Bossom, Sir Clive Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Bowden, Andrew Haselhurst, Alan Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Havers, Michael Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Braine, Bernard Hawkins, Paul Percival, Ian
Bray, Ronald Hay, John Pike, Miss Mervyn
Brewis, John Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Pink, R. Bonner
Brinton, Sir Tatton Heseltine, Michael Pounder, Rafton
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Hicks, Robert Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Higgins, Terence L. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hiley, Joseph Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Bryan, Paul Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Holland, Philip Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Buck, Antony Holt, Miss Mary Quennell, Miss J. M.
Bullus, Sir Eric Hordern, Peter Raison, Timothy
Burden, F. A. Hornby, Richard Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Butter, Adam (Bosworth) Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Redmond, Robert
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray&Nairn) Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Carlisle, Mark Howell, David (Guildford) Rees, Peter (Dover)
Channon, Paul Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Rees-Daviss, W. R.
Chapman, Sydney Hunt, John Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hutchison, Michael Clark Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Chichester-Clark, R. Iremonger, T. L. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Churchill, W. S. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, Julian
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) James, David Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Clegg, Walter Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cockerman, Eric Jessel, Toby Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cooke, Robert Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rost, Peter
Coomhs, Derek Jopling, Michael Royle, Anthony
Cooper A. E. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Russell, Sir Ronald
Cordle, John Kimball, Marcus Scott, Nicholas
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Cormack, Patrick King, Tom (Bridgwater) Shelton, William (Clapham)
Costain, A. P. Kinsey, J. R. Simeons, Charles
Critchley, Julian Knox, David Sinclair, Sir George
Crouch, David Lambton, Antony Skeet, T. H. H.
Crowder, F. P. Lane, David Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Curran, Charles Langford-Holt, Sir John Soref, Harold
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Speed, Keith
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Le Marchant, Spencer Spence, John
d'Avigdir-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sproat, lain
Dean, Paul Lloyd. Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Stainton, Keith
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Longden, Gilbert Stanbrook, Ivor
Dixon, Piers Loveridge, John Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec McAdden, Sir Stephen Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Mac Arthur, Ian Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Dykes, Hugh McCrindle, R. A. Stokes, John
Eden, Sir John Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Edwards. Nicholas (Pembroke) McMaster, Stanley Sutcliffe, John
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Macmillan, Maurice (Famham) Tapsell, Peter
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne. N.) McNair-Wilson, Michael Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Eyre, Reginald McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Fell, Anthony Maddan, Martin Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Madel, David Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Fidler, Michael Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Tebbit, Norman
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Marten, Neil Temple, John M.
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Mather, Carol Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maude, Angus Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Fookes, Miss Janet Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Fortescue, Tim Mawby, Ray Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Foster, Sir John Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Fowler, Norman Meyer, Sir Anthony Trew, Peter
Fox, Marcus Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C.(Aberdeenshire, W) Tugendhat, Christopher
Fraser. Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Moate, Roger van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gardner, Edward Molyneaux, James Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Gibson-Watt, David Money, Ernie Waddington, David
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk. C.) Monks, Mrs. Connie Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Montgomery, Fergus Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Glyn, Dr. Alan Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Goodhart, Philip Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Wall, Patrick
Gooahew, Victor Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Gorst, John Mudd, David
Ward, Dame Irene Wilkinson, John Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Warren, Kenneth Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Younger, Hn. George
Weatherill, Bernard Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Wells, John (Maidstone) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
White, Roger (Gravesend) Woodnutt, Mark Mr. Jasper More and
Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Worsley, Marcus Mr. Hector Monro.
Wiggin, Jerry
Abse, Leo Ford, Ben Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)
Albu, Austen Forrester, John Marks, Kenneth
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Fraser, John (Norwood) Marquand, David
Allen, Scholefield Freeson, Reginald Marsden, F.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Garrett, W. E. Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Ashley, Jack Gilbert, Dr. John Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Ashton, Joe Ginsburg, David Mayhew, Christopher
Atkinson, Norman Golding, John Meacher, Michael
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gourlay, Harry Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Barnes, Michael Grant, George (Morpeth) Mendelson, John
Barnett, Joel Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Millan, Bruce
Beaney, Alan Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Bennett, James (Glyasgow, Bridgeton) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Bidwell, Sydney Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Bishop, E. S. Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hamling, William Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Booth, Albert Hardy, Peter Moyle, Roland
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Harper, Joseph Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Brown, Bob (N'c'He-upon-Tyne, W.) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Murray, Ronald King
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Ogden, Eric
Buchan, Norman Hattersley, Roy O'Halloran, Michael
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis O'Malley, Brian
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Heffer, Eric S. Oram, Bert
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Hilton, W. S. Orbach, Maurice
Cant, R. B. Horam, John Orme, Stanley
Carmichael, Neil Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oswald, Thomas
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Huckfield, Leslie Owen, Or. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Padley, Walter
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hughes, Mark (Durham) Palmer, Arthur
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Pardoe, John
Cohen, Stanley Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Concannon, J. D. Janner, Greville Pavitt, Laurie
Conlan, Bernard Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pendry, Tom
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Pentland, Norman
Crawshaw, Richard John, Brynmor Perry, Ernest G.
Cronin, John Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Prescott, John
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Johnson, Walter (Derby S.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Price, William (Rugby)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Probert, Arthur
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Rankin, John
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kaufman, Gerald Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kelley, Richard Rhodes, Geoffrey
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Kerr, Russell Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Kinnock, Neil Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Davis, T. A. G. (Bromsgrove) Lambie, David Robertson, John (Paisley)
Deakins, Eric Lamond, James Roderick, Caerwyn (Br'c'n&R'dnor)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Latham, Arthur Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Delargy, H. J. Lawson, George Roper, John
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Leadbitter, Ted Rose, Paul B.
Dempsey, James Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Doig, Peter Leonard, Dick Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Dormand, J. D. Lestor, Miss Joan Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Silkin, Rt. Hn, John (Deptford)
Driberg, Tom Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lipton, Marcus Sillars, James
Dunn, James A. Lomas, Kenneth Silverman, Julius
Dunnett, Jack Loughin, Charles Skinner, Dennis
Edelman, Maurice Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Small, William
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McBride, Neil Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Edwards, Willam (Merioneth) McElhone, Frank Spriggs, Leslie
Ellis, Tom McGuire, Michael Stallard, A. W.
English, Michael Mackenzie, Gregor Steel, David
Evans, Fred Mackie, John Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Faulds, Andrew Mackintosh, John P. Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Lady wood) McMillan Tom (Glasgow, C.) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McNamara, J. Kevin Strang, Gavin
Foley, Maurice Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Foot, Michael Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Varley, Eric G. Whitlock, William
Swain, Thomas Wainwright, Edwin Wilfey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Taverne, Dick Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Wallace, George Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.) Watkins, David Wool, Robert
Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy Weitzman, David
Tommy, Frank Wellbeloved, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Torney, Tom Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Mr. Alan Fitch and
Tuck, Raphael White, James (Glasgow, Pollok) Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Urwin, T. W. Whitehead, Phillip

Bill accordingly read a Second time,

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).