§ 6.52 p.m.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, I move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a Private Member's Bill but it has the support of the Government. Its origin is due to the interest and initiative of Mr. McNamara in another place. The purpose of the Bill is to correct an anomaly that arises out of the classification of schools laid down in the Education Act 1944. Under that Act schools were designated as primary and secondary schools. Since then a number of local authorities have established what are called middle schools. These schools span the age groups between the primary and the secondary schools, catering for the ages of 8 to 12, 9 to 13 and 10 to 14. Under the Provision of Milk and Meals Regulations 1969 it is laid down that all children attending primary schools will on each of the school days receive one-third of a pint of milk. It happens that some of the middle schools have been designated as secondary schools by a number of authorities, for various organisational or educational reasons. Being designated or classified as secondary schools, the children attending such schools are deprived of their right to secure free milk, and this modest Bill seeks to correct that anomaly.
The cost is not great; I think it runs to a matter of about £45,000 in the year 1970–71, and this expenditure is already taken care of in the rate support grant for that year. The majority of local authorities that have established middle schools have designated them as primary schools; therefore in such cases scholars would receive the free milk. In those cases where middle schools are designated as secondary, a number of local authorities are involved, particularly Hull, part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and Merton. The total number of scholars involved would be about 16,000 and 12,000 of those are in the city of Hull. As the Bill is drafted it would not come into force until the beginning of the next summer term.
I am sure that Members of this House will join with me in giving support to anything that encourages the provision of free milk for young children. There is no need for me to stress its importance 971 from the health standpoint. In this particular case I have mentioned that an anomaly has been created, and no one would tolerate circumstances likely to deprive these children of this milk. Therefore I commend the Bill to your Lordships, realising that its acceptance will correct an anomaly and will be well received in the areas to which it refers. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Peddie.)
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, has told the House clearly that if a middle school of the age range from 10½ to over 12 is established under Section 1 of the 1964 Act and the school is designated by the Secretary of State as secondary under the 1944 Act, then the provisions of Section 3(1) of the Public Expenditure and Receipts Act 1968 mentioned in this Bill do not apply and the local education authorities are not required to provide free milk, even for pupils of junior age, under 12 years old. The Bill seeks to rectify this state of affairs and to that extent I trust it will receive the support of the whole House.
I have just one question for the noble Lord. He told us that the Secretary of State has designated some of these middle schools as primary, when presumably the provisions of the 1968 Public Expenditure and Receipts Act do apply: the local education authorities are required by law to provide free milk for all pupils in such schools, whether they are juniors or not. I wonder whether I have got this right. If this is so, I am wondering whether in doing away with one anomaly we are not allowing another one to run on, and perhaps a further Amendment should be made to the Bill. With that one question, I certainly support this Bill.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, there is very little I can add on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to the splendid speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, in introducing the Bill. I would merely say that the Bill of course performs an opportune service in putting right a small, troublesome anomaly at a time when we are not actually introducing an Education (Miscellaneous Pro- 972 visions) Bill, and, as a consequence, Her Majesty's Government give it full support.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, in reply to the very interesting point raised by the noble Lord opposite, may I say that it is true that under the Public Expenditure and Receipts Act 1968 it was made quite clear that children in secondary schools would not receive free milk. It also makes it quite clear that children in special schools and all children in primary schools would receive free milk. The children in secondary schools do not. The situation is that because of that Act there is an exclusion of a certain number owing to the designation. I cannot see that any further anomaly will be created. The only anomaly that I can think of at the moment might arise from the fact that under the Provision of Milk and Meals Regulations, which provide for free milk up to the age of 12, under this particular Bill children above the age of 12 even in these middle schools would not receive the milk although they would be in the middle school. That is the only anomaly that I can see arising. I hope that that clears up the point. Secondary school children do not receive the milk; primary school children do receive the milk. Some of the middle schools have been designated, described or classified as primary schools and therefore the problem does not arise. This Bill relates solely to those middle schools which have been classified or designated by the local authority as being secondary. Therefore I do not think that any further anomalies will be created. I thank noble Lords for their support of the Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.