HC Deb 15 June 1972 vol 838 cc1709-11
14. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the general level of health amongst school children; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, in general. Of the children examined at periodic school medical inspections in recent years fewer than one in 300 has been found to be in unsatisfactory physical condition.

Mr. Carter

Is the right hon. Lady aware that in a recent survey of a section of school children in Birmingham, a quite disturbing health deficiency was found? As in Birmingham there has been an alarming drop in the number of school meals, coupled with the fact we have discontinued the free supply of school milk, does not the right hon. Lady think that the time is right for a very careful and full survey amongst all school children into the general state of their health?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Chief Medical Officer makes a report every second year on the health of school children and on the school health services in general. The report to which the hon. Gentleman refers concerned the health of some 500 or 600 children aged between 14 and 17 in secondary schools. Any action I might have taken in withdrawing free milk has nothing to do with that, because free milk was withdrawn from secondary school children by legislation passed by the last Government. My only action in connection with it was to make milk available to secondary school children on sale.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Recognising that of the 600 sampled school children up to 25 per cent. have the disease of rickets, according to biochemical and clinical analysis, and since Dr. Cook, one of the foremost consultant physicians, is awaiting £4,000 so that his investigation can go into greater detail, will my righthon. Friend consult the Department of Health and Social Security about this matter, which is causing deep consternation in Birmingham?

Mrs. Thatcher

Of course I will. I remind my hon. Friend that the Under-secretary of State for Health and Social Security has answered a Question on this, pointing out that all the evidence is being currently considered by the local health authority and officers of his Department, and also by the school medical service. We are concerned about this report and are already considering its impact.

Miss Lestor

When studying the health of school children, will the right hon. Lady pay particular attention to the state of the teeth of young children, which are probably worse now than they have ever been? Will she consider it in relation to diet provided and to the lack of nutrition we are hearing about?

Mrs. Thatcher

All these matters should be taken into account. As the hon. Lady knows, a working party is sitting on all aspects of the school meals and refreshment services, so the matter will be considered in relation to food and refreshment provided through the schools. It is a very wide issue, as the hon. Lady knows.