HC Deb 10 February 1972 vol 830 cc1535-6
8. Mr. David Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make regulations to require that children not receiving free school milk should be regularly examined to ensure that they do not suffer brain damage due to lead poisoning.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. The Chief Medical Officer has recently advised all medical officers of health, including principal school medical officers, about possible hazards from excessive amounts of lead in food, the atmosphere, water and soil, and has asked them to consider, particularly in the case of young children, what investigations should be undertaken.

Mr. Stoddart

Is the right hon. Lady aware that that is not a very satisfactory answer? Is she further aware of the warning recently issued by Professor Bryce-Smith of Reading University that the withdrawal of school milk from young children has increased the danger from lead poisoning which can lead to irreversible brain damage in children? Is she further aware that Professor Bryce-Smith has pointed out that in urban areas in the United States 25 per cent. of children suffer brain damage due to lead poisoning? Will she now recognise the protective effects of free school milk, reverse her stupid, ridiculous and criminal policy and restore free school milk to children?

Mrs. Thatcher

Children who have a health requirement will get free school milk up to the age of 11. Over the age of 11 withdrawal was made complete and total by the last Government.

Miss Lestor

Would the right hon. Lady like me to send her a copy of the Press cutting dealing with this question of lead poisoning, because I think she has missed the point? The point is that milk is one of the few protections against lead poisoning and that we now live in a lead-contaminated society. If children are to be examined after they have lead poisoning, it is too late to do anything about it. Does she realise that this is why the question of restoring school milk, particularly for young children, is so vital?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are very much aware of the dangers of lead poisoning and that is why the Chief Medical Officer recently circularised all medical officers of health and school medical officers on this subject.