HL Deb 07 August 1914 vol 17 cc452-3

My Lords, seeing the First Commissioner of Works in his place, I wish to ask him a Question of which I have given him private notice. Yesterday your Lordships passed an Education (Provision of Meals) Bill which empowered local education authorities to spend out of the rates such sums as they might choose for feeding children, and the Bill covered the period of holidays, which was not covered by the previous Act. The Bill passed yesterday extends to England only, for it is an amendment of the Act of 1906. I understand that Ireland was included when the Bill was in Committee in the other House, but that as that was found not to be in order a similar Bill has been drafted for Ireland, which I believe in due course will be brought before the House. With regard to Scotland, however, nothing is said. The arrangements with regard to feeding children in Scotland are different from those which prevail in England, but if there is any provision in this new Bill which goes further than the benefits allowed at the present time by the Scottish law, I would suggest that the noble Lord should ask the Scottish Office to consider whether it would not be desirable to bring in a similar Bill specially dealing with Scotland. It is, of course, desirable that all the three countries should be treated exactly in the same way.


My Lords, I have only just received the information enabling me to reply to the noble Earl, but I think that after I have given it he will see that there is no necessity for a Bill for Scotland to give the authorities there the powers that are given by the Bills to which he has referred. The Elementary Education (Provision of Meals) Act, 1914, which was passed yesterday, alters the law of England in the following way. It legalises the provision of meals during holidays and on other days when the schools are not open; it repeals the limit proposed by the Act of 1906, under which the expenditure of local education authorities on the provision of food was limited to the produce of a half-penny rate; and it abolishes the necessity for obtaining the sanction of the Board of Education to expenditure out of the rates on the provision of meals. In Scotland there is no limitation on the powers of a school board in providing meals for necessitous children such as existed under the unamended Act in England; consequently the need for an amendment of the law in Scotland does not arise.

The powers of a school board in Scotland as regards the provision of meals are set forth in Section 6 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908, which obliges a school board to feed necessitous children if this cannot be provided for by voluntary agency. The Statute does not limit the provision to times of actual attendance at school, and therefore the children may be fed during holidays. Nor does it give the Scottish Education Department any title to question the discretion of the school board as to which children are to be regarded as necessitous. I may direct the noble Earl's attention to a Minute, a copy of which I hold in my hand, issued on July 25 last and laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament on July 27, which empowers the Department to make a grant to school boards equal to one-half of the net cost to the rates of their expenditure on the provision of meals; and I may also inform the noble Earl that a Circular is being issued to all school boards in Scotland to-day directing the attention of those boards to their powers and duties under the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908, with reference to the special circumstances of the country. I think, therefore, that the noble Earl will see that no necessity arises in Scotland for the special legislation which has been found requisite in England, and which apparently is also necessary for Ireland.