HL Deb 24 July 1930 vol 78 cc781-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it will not be necessary for me to detain you for more than a moment in moving the Second Reading of this small Bill. As your Lordships can see, the object of the Bill is to enable the education authorities in Scotland to expend money on providing milk for school children in the schools. Over a period of about two years some very exhaustive tests have been carried out covering a number of children, over two thousand, with a view of ascertaining what would be the result of the addition of a small quantity of milk to the daily diet of the working class child. I need not bother your Lordships with a large number of statistics, but the result of the experiments, which were most carefully and scientifically carried out, proved conclusively that the addition of a small quantity of milk to the diet of these children gave a very large result in the height and weight of the children and in their general condition. No money has been available from the Exchequer for this purpose, and the money has been found, I believe, by a grant from the Empire Marketing Board.

The children were tested both ways, both by giving the milk and then withholding it, and the curve of improvement or otherwise in these children corresponded absolutely to the giving and withholding of the milk. The results have been so striking and the tests so conclusive that the conclusion has been come to that these experiments ought to be continued. However much your Lordships might be tempted to agree to this measure on compassionate grounds, because it really would be a boon to the children concerned, I should be the last to advance it on those grounds. I think it -is clear that, however small the expenditure, in these days of stringency and necessity for economy we should not be justified in spending public money for the purpose in question on those grounds. I prefer to put the Bill before your Lordships as a business proposition.

In the first place, the result of those experiments proved conclusively that the school attendance of the children increased very greatly. There is not the smallest doubt that the money expended on education is spent to very much better purpose if the children are in a position to take advantage of it. The first point to be noted is that by the expenditure of this small sum on milk you get better value for the money which you are spending on education. Then there is the small point that this will be to some extent of benefit to the farming industry. The whole amount of money to be spent on the provision of milk is so small that I would not venture to urge that as a strong reason to your Lordships, but at all events it is a reason.

Lastly, there is a provision in the Bill that the milk to be supplied shall be the very best milk. It is to be certified milk, or failing that, milk of the best grade available in the area. That, I hope, through the instrumentality of the education authority, will be the means of improving the general standard of the supply of milk in country districts. Clause 1, as your Lordships can see, does provide that such exemptions as are proper should be provided. It is clear from that that no one will be forced to have milk if the parents do not want it. There is also a provision that if the parents can pay there is machinery for the recovery of the costs from those parents. I do not think I need say more.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.