§ 4.33 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BELSTEAD)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD GRENFELL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [School milk for pupils in England and Wales]:
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 9, leave out (" seven ") and insert (" eleven ")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friends, Lady Phillips, Lady Summerskill and myself. The Amendment 834 is designed to alter the age set out in the Bill from seven to eleven; in other words, to ensure that children will be provided with free milk between the ages of five and eleven. The food value of milk is well established; of that there is no doubt whatever. It provides for the growing child, as no substitute at the same price can possibly do. It is, as has been said, Nature's own diet, and as a nation we are privileged that it is in plentiful supply in this country at a price that has enabled us to produce as fine a generation of young people as the world has seen, far better than in countries not so well supplied and not so well blessed with this world's riches. We know the importance of ensuring that the child at school is adequately fed. If he is not, the greater degree of inadequacy, the less likely he is to benefit from the education offered to him. We know also that an adequate diet is a necessity to build healthy bodies. We have, very rightly, as a nation been proud of the young people who have grown up since the war years, when we decided that all children should have access to nourishing food.
§ School milk and school meals have been tremendously important. This is not a Bill to provide or not to provide school meals, but it is important that we remember that the price of school meals has been raised recently, and as a result one million fewer children are taking them. And it is most important to remember also that the price is to go up again next April, despite the catastrophic drop in daily numbers of meals supplied as a result of the first cut in the school meals service of the Barber's razor. The Committee would do well to remember the price increase of last April, and the one that is yet to come, in considering this matter of supplying free milk to children between seven and eleven. I venture to suggest that because of what has already happened in regard to the school meals service, and having regard to what we can anticipate may happen next April, there is a greater need to protect the milk position, because many children in primary schools will depend increasingly on the daily one-third of a pint.
We have to remember that in this Bill there is no means test for free school milk. Poverty does not rank for free milk. There is free milk only if the
medical officer says it is necessary; and heaven knows how the medical officers are going to get around the schools to do the job!—because many of them, as I understand it, do not see all the children even once a year. With the probability of still fewer children having school meals after the further rise in price next April, it is imperative that we maintain the supply of milk for the children in this age group. Let me once again remind the Committee of what Dr. George Lynch and Dr. Sylvia de la Paz reported as their findings as a result of a survey of the food patterns of 4,382 school children of both sexes in the ten to twelve year age group:
Of primary children, 18 per cent. and 28 per cent., respectively, were estimated to be at risk in terms of insufficient intakes of calcium and riboflavin. We calculated that in the event of the withdrawal of school milk, and on the assumption that no compensatory changes in dietary habits occurred, the percentages of inadequate intakes referred to would increase to 34 per cent. and 39 per cent. Subsequent investigations of the 2,471 primary children included in the sample have shown that of those consuming milk drinks 39 per cent. depended entirely on school milk for this source of nourishment.
In the course of the Second Reading debate the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that the interim report of these two doctors—and the report was issued because of their grave concern at the decision to cut free milk for the seven to eleven year olds—
was based on questions to 4,300 school children who were asked to recall everything which they had eaten in the previous 24 hours, and really this is not the sort of survey which can be put to the Committee on the medical aspects of food policy…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23/7/71, col. 1367.]
In saying that, he was only repeating what his right honourable friend the Secretary of State had said when the issue was debated in another place. She also spoke of a 24-hour recall survey. The Committee might like to know that the two doctors, in an article in the New Scientist dated July 1, this year, said this:
Mrs. Thatcher is aware of the existence of the survey undertaken by our unit. She referred to it, albeit erroneously, in the recent debate when she described nutritional analysis as being based on a 24-hour recall instead of the food patterns to which the children were accustomed during the school week.
I think one might give a little more credit to the two doctors than has been given
by the spokesman on behalf of the Department. There are others who can speak as professionals in this field, and I will leave the matter in the hope that some of them may take part in the debate. I have little doubt that those who are professionals will testify to the health value of supplying food, particularly to young children.
I want to come to what the cut is all about. This desire of the Government to deprive the seven to eleven year olds of a free daily one-third of a pint of milk while at school is to save £5.9 million in this current year and £9 million in a full year. How they estimate that I do not know, as no one knows at the moment what medical officers are going to recommend by way of free milk for children needing medical milk. If they have power to recommend milk for preventive reasons, all calculations could be upset. What is this £5.9 million, and this £9 million, to be used for? The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said it was a significant sum, but, he told us [col. 1329]:
what is of far greater importance is that this saving forms part of an overall design to discontinue, or reduce, public expenditure which benefits many people who may not need the subsidy that it contains and to concentrate Government help where it is most needed, and to reallocate the savings in scarce public resources to priorities which are crying out for attention. As part of this overall policy my right honourable friend has particularly announced record allocations to replace or improve old primary schools…
While we welcome the promise, we take note at the same time that the figures for secondary schools, as announced in the programme for improvements and replacements for the years 1972, 1973 and 1974, are cut to zero. No money at all is included for improvements or replacements for secondary schools in that period. All the money is to be spent on the primary schools.
§ Frankly, this supposed reallocation needs closer examination. With the savings on free milk for seven to eleven year olds, and the savings consequent on higher charges for school meals, it is estimated that a sum of £38 million is secured. I want to ask the Minister where this figure of £38 million is reflected in the totals which are being spent on improvements and replacements at any time from now on, in any programme that has so far been announced. The 837 announced programmes do not show an increase of £38 million. What is proposed by way of expenditure is expenditure that will be undertaken by the local education authorities. I think it is fair to say, therefore, that the sum that will be coming from national sources will be well below the £38 million about which so much play has been made.
§ If we are to judge the adequacy of the programme that has been announced, we ought to be told the global amount for all the applications which have been received. I note that last week the noble Lord's right honourable friend the Secretary of State indicated that it would be too costly to supply this information, but somewhere along the line somebody must have some idea as to the adequacy of the programme that has been announced when balanced against the applications that have been submitted. By cutting down on secondary school improvements the Secretary of State is not only not giving more freedom to local education authorities; she would indeed appear to be hampering, in the years to which I have referred, any proposals for secondary reorganisation. If, as we have been, we are lagging in this sphere of replacing and improving our primary schools, surely we could make up for those years of neglect without depriving small children of milk.
§ I doubt whether many noble Lords in this House who received substantial tax relief from the recent reductions would have advocated cutting school milk and raising the price of school meals to find the £38 million required to benefit people in receipt of over £4,000 a year. If there are, they ought to stand up to be counted. Indeed, it may well be that this afternoon they will have the chance. I hope that this House will say that it will not agree to taking milk from the mouths of children aged seven to eleven to put more cream on the tables of those who are in receipt of over £80 a week. This House has an opportunity this afternoon, as it has on so many occasions, to show that it has a heart, and that it also has a proper sense of priorities. I beg to move.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
There is a tradition in your Lordships' House that all subjects that come before us should be discussed in an atmosphere 838 which is calm and courteous, the assumption being that, whatever our varying points of view, we are all making a contribution which we believe is in the best interests of our country. I find it very hard to keep up that tradition this afternoon. I do not propose to go into any juggling arithmetic about what we can save on primary schools and add to building costs, because I think this philosophy of"feeding the dog its own tail"has gone too far. We have to look at the total expenditure on education and the total expenditure on other important subjects, and give them their proper priorities. We have had just about enough of this business of thinking that even crippled children cannot be allowed to go into our museums and art galleries free so that we can have a building fund for more museums and galleries; and that children of 7 to 11 should be deprived of their milk on this false reasoning so that we can do some more building. I am not interested in that end of it at all.
Another thing that bothers me is the idea of children being asked what they have been eating in the past 24 hours. Do you think the children are going to tell you the truth? One of the most dreadful things about what the Government are proposing to do is that they are not only depriving young children of essential nourishment, but they are also exposing them in a way that young children should not be exposed. Many Members on both sides of your Lordships' House may know a distinguished friend of many of us called Miss Griffiths. She was a headmistress in the Rhondda, and she became a leading official of the National Union of Teachers. She was a very great educationist known to many of us. But I was always impressed by what she told me about teaching in the Rhondda in the between-war years, when there was a good deal of malnutrition.
A very friendly and fatherly inspector came down from London, and she told him about the difficulty she had with children who were coming to school in the morning not properly fed. She indicated a child in the class and said,"You know, she is coming to school these mornings with no breakfast at all." In all kindness, the fatherly inspector said,"Come here Mary ", and called this little girl out in front. He was not trying to humiliate her in front of the entire class 839 and he asked her quite quietly,"Mary, what did you have for breakfast this morning?" She looked him in the eye and said,"Ham and egg ". She thought that was the correct thing to say, and she was not going to let the side down.
So I am doubly furious about this Bill. I do not think we have any right to treat children in this way. They are extremely sensitive, and they do not want to be separated because their father and mother are poorer than others. We ought to take note of how many families are not applying for what they are legally entitled to get. There are various reasons for that, and one is that children have a soul as well as a body, and they have their dignity. So I am doubly contemptuous of a Government who are trying to solve the problems of this country by taking away milk from children between the ages of 7 and 11.
I am not qualified to talk as a doctor, but we all know that milk is a very important ingredient in the food that children must have. I am not asking for the impossible. I never expected a Labour Government, and I certainly do not expect a Conservative Government to introduce the millenium straight away. There is a limit to what any Government can do, either forwards or backwards. But the present Government are excelling themselves in the rate they are trying to move backwards. No-one expects that we shall solve all our problems, but why do we not hold what we have? There were decent things done in this country at the end of the Second World War. For a time there was a philosophy that we were going to make life better for the ordinary man and woman. One of the best things we did was to see that even before our children were born they were properly looked after. People came from all over the world and said,"How can this be? Your homes and factories have been blitzed, but look at your babies." We thought them our most precious asset, and we have a very proud record everywhere for the way we took care of our children even before they were born. And what efforts we made in the schools. I should love to see the feeding of children taken out of schools. I should like to see children's community restaurants open 365 days a year. We ought to be thinking ahead and being progressive, and it is very 840 sad that in your Lordships' House we should be called together this afternoon in order to take a glass of milk away from children between the ages of 7 and 11.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I fully sympathise with my noble friend who has just spoken. During the Second Reading of this Bill it was very difficult for many Members here—only one noble Lord spoke from the other side—to control their indignation. One should congratulate noble Lords on the Back Benches opposite on the fact that only one noble Lord tried to defend this Bill. I dealt then with every aspect of the Bill, and I now propose to confine myself to this Amendment. In so doing-, I can take up the most amazing question which the noble Lord opposite asked at the end of his speech. He asked: what is the difference between depriving a child of 11 of milk and depriving a child of 7? Between the ages of 7 and 11 are four years during which a child is growing rapidly, and they are four years during which a child should have the added benefit of milk every day. I want to put another point to the noble Lord.
I dealt earlier with the growth of children and the importance to their psyche, to their confidence, and to their whole future of attaining their optimum size and growth. But there is another aspect to consider about the years between 7 and 11. Those are the vital years which precede the 11-plus, or whatever may replace it, which is the most important educational test and determines a child's whole future. As the noble Baroness has said—and we all know Sarah Griffiths, of whom she was speaking—the child who comes to school hungry is the exhausted and inattentive child, and although it may have a good IQ it fails to absorb knowledge. This was known during the last century, but it is only in this century that teachers appear to have had the courage to speak out on the subject. I appeal to your Lordships to help these children between 7 and 11 in this very small way.
The child may have feckless parents and may come to school without food, but it is wholly dependent upon its parents and cannot help itself. All we can do is to try to help it in school by giving it some food. As I said on Second Reading, I look upon milk as a complete food. 841 It is the food which nature provided in order that the species could continue to exist. It contains all those constituents—that is, fats, carbohydrates and proteins—which a complete food contains, and we are asking for a third of a pint of milk a day to be given to these poor children between the ages of 7 and 11 throughout the country.
May I appeal to the hearts and minds of noble Lords opposite? Is this where any economy should be made? It may be said that we are a peculiar nation, anxious to spoil our children. But let us look at the other countries—because educationists everywhere know that the better a child is fed the better it can learn. The Scandinavian countries gave then children breakfasts years ago, and now the affluent United States of America has decided to provide breakfasts at a cost of 25 million dollars. If a child comes to school without breakfast, it has to see the morning through in that state. These other countries are saying, quite rightly—and when we see the Government's meanness it makes it very difficult for us to ask for more—that this is wrong. When the hungry child comes to school let us fill its tummy right away, so that we can warm it up—because food is a most important factor in giving warmth—and make it more attentive. Otherwise, as these other countries very wisely say, we are wasting money on education. It is a complete waste of money to try to teach a hungry child.
Your Lordships may say that this is a Party matter and this is a political speech. I ask you to consider the standing of the medical officer of health in your own areas. A medical officer of health is regarded in medical circles as a man of the highest integrity. You have to realise that a man or woman who has decided to become a medical officer of health enters a salaried service, one in which the lure of money, which might attract some doctors in private practice, does not obtain at all. These medical officers of health are in my opinion the very cream of the profession. What are they saying about this? Let me quote from The Times of June 18 an article headed,Milk decision retrograde, school medical officers say."—these are the men who examine the schoolchildren— 842The principal officers in the 12 Inner London boroughs have sent a memorandum to the authority telling it they regard the abandonment of the principle of free milk for all children aged 7 to 12 as a retrograde step.They are particularly concerned about the part they will have to play in the new system, particularly when it comes to deciding who should receive free ' medical milk '. It is believed that the officers' concern was one of the main contributory factors in the…ILEA'S decision on Wednesday to try to resist the new Government measure.In their memorandum the officers say the effect of the stooping of free milk can be discernable only after it has been in operation for a considerable time ".I ask your Lordships to consider that last sentence: you can detect malnutrition only after a child has been undernourished for a considerable time. As I said before, I presume somebody will then come along and say,"Let us give it a third of a pint of milk a day ", when the damage has already been done. I ask your Lordships to-day to reconsider this inhuman decision of the Government. This must have been a Cabinet decision, and without being offensive I feel that every individual in that Cabinet has never had an opportunity to see hungry children and does not know the conditions which we are describing today; otherwise, they could not possibly have allowed this Bill to be printed. Therefore, on this Amendment I do not ask your Lordships simply to listen to my appeal, but to consider the very carefully worded statement of the medical officers of health, who spend their lives among these children, and, having considered it, to vote for this Amendment.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
Perhaps I may intervene for just one moment. When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in 1940—and the position of this country was a good deal more desperate at that moment than it is to-day—I was privileged to introduce to another place, under the direction of Lord Woolton, the original National Milk Scheme. That was a very good scheme, and it provided the basis upon which the whole subsequent structure of our nutritional policy for schoolchildren was built—meals in schools and milk in schools, and, indeed, milk in the home. To a large extent that structure is being dismantled by the present Government for a paltry sum, and I have already said to your Lordships' House that I 843 think Lord Woolton would turn in his grave if he realised what was being done to-day. I think that now to deprive schoolchildren of free milk between the ages of seven to eleven is just about as unforgivable an act as I have ever known a Government take—and for a paltry £5 million or £6 million. We know from expert authority that from seven to twelve is a vital age from a nutritional point of view. It is a critical and crucial age; and to deprive these children of a glass of milk a day in school is, to me, quite incomprehensible. Apart from that, I have nothing to add to what has already been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, by the medical profession as a whole and, above all, by the medical officers of health. I think the arguments cannot be countered, and I would beg your Lordships, if there is a Division, to vote against this iniquitous proposal.
§ BARONESS BERKELEY
I am afraid I do not agree with the noble Lords who have just spoken. I think children are very much more advanced nowadays, and I very much doubt if children of ten or eleven really need or require milk. Children are fed on adult food at a very much earlier age than they ever used to be 10, 20 or 30 years ago, when milk was very much more of a staple diet for them. That, I gather, is the experience of my friends and relatives who have young children. Nowadays, there are such things as family allowances and supplementary benefits; so surely there should be no reason why mothers should not take title trouble to feed their children and give them a proper breakfast before they go to school. Therefore, if this Amendment is put to the vote I shall have much pleasure in supporting my noble friend the Minister in the Division Lobby.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I have only three sentences to add in support of this Amendment. First of all, all honour to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and to the memory of Lord Woolton, for what was done in the war years. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who asked,"Does it matter when you stop providing free milk for children? ", I would say that it is much more important to let them have milk from the ages of seven to eleven than after eleven. That I do not 844 think many people would dispute. It is a matter of judgment whether it is better to improve old primary schools (for this is the excuse that the Government gave when they announced their decision to stop the free milk) than to invest in the health of our young children from the ages of seven to eleven. Given the choice, I come down on the side of old primary schools and free milk, because to have"spanking"new schools for children who are not particularly healthy does not seem to me at all to be the answer to our problems to-day about the young.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
May I say a few words in support of the Government? Noble Lords opposite appear to be saying that the Government are depriving children from the ages of seven to eleven of milk. They are not depriving the children of milk. They are saying, so far as I understand, that if, presumably, the parents can afford it, then they will pay for the third of a pint of milk. If a child is obviously undernourished, then the medical officer will be aware of that fact. If he is not aware of that fact, he is obviously not doing his job: if he is aware of that fact, then the child will get the milk. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, who said that she was very contemptuous of the Government for doing this. I personally think she ought to be very contemptuous of parents. The average parent is to-day earning pretty well £2,000 a year, if you take the industrial wage—£30 a week, anyway; £1,500 a year. The noble Baroness should be very contemptuous of the parents. It is not a packet of cigarettes a week. Surely they could deny themselves that, or maybe the father a couple of pints of beer, to give their child milk. I quite agree that the Bill seems rather niggardly, but to say that the Government are depriving children from seven to eleven years of age of milk is an exaggeration.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
Would the noble Viscount give way? I wonder whether he could state the source of his information that most people earn £2,000 a year?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
The average industrial wage is now just about £30 a week—£28 to £30 a week—and even if you have four children and are out of work you can 845 draw National Assistance up to about £1,000 a year. If you have four children, you can draw up to £18 a week, anyway. But I quite agree that the children of people on National Assistance ought to get free milk. I personally thought their children did, with the extra supplementary benefits and everything else that the Government have now granted. But I really think that the average parent, if he is in a good job, ought to be only too pleased to deny himself a packet of cigarettes to give his child milk.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
If we satisfy the noble Viscount that the child of the poor parent cannot get free milk merely because the parents are poor, will he think again?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
The medical officer of health will presumably know, or should know, the financial conditions of the parents and therefore should see that the child gets the extra milk.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
Can the noble Viscount tell me in what category of work does a woman who has to support her children get £30 a week?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
The noble Viscount has made clear from what he said at the beginning that he did not fully understand the position. I think we all agree with that. I think that some of the support that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has had from behind him has been rather unwelcome.
The only argument in defence of this action is that families in one way or another, with the rise in wages and benefits, have enough income for this small amount to make no difference. That may be true at the level of £30 a week. I am responsible for an organisation called the Family Service Units. We look after about 1,500 families in 17 different areas of England. These are all problem families, all families who have failed to match up effectively to life. It may be said that it is their own fault. That does not matter: it is not the fault of the children. There is not one of these families who, confronted with the rising rates of everything at the moment, is not in severe difficulties. It is of no use the noble Lord's telling us that this small sum makes no difference; it makes a great difference to families who are 846 already short. I think that there should be no question of riding off our criticism on the ground that the sum is so small, that, as the noble Viscount suggested, the people can divert it from cigarettes to milk. This is not what happens in the type of families that I am speaking of: the father probably does spend the money on cigarettes, and he is very likely in prison. The children do not get it. If you cut off the free one-third of a pint of milk, they may get the milk but may not get something else. This is a diminution in an income which is already too small for something like 200,000, or perhaps 300,000 families in this country. This should be underlined. If this is what the Government mean, then let them say so clearly.
§ BARONESS BIRK
When we are talking about incomes we seem to have overlooked the fact that the unemployment figures in the last month were at their highest for this time of the year since the 1940s. There were over 800,000 unemployed. So far as the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Berkeley, about its being up to the parents, is concerned, this may be so; and it is true that in many cases they do not plan well. But our concern here is with the children. This is not merely a question of lecturing the parents; it is the end result which is our concern. She cited an example of family allowances. This is our point. Family allowances are not given selectively but generally to every family. I will not go over the arguments of all the speakers who have supported this Amendment. Even those experts who argue about whether extra milk for that age group is essential have always done so with the proviso that there is a properly balanced diet for the child. This is not a question only of money but also of knowing a great deal more about nutrition than, with respect, do many of us in your Lordships' House. The less money a family has, the more difficult it is to provide a nutritionally balanced diet. This is why to cut off this milk for the seven to eleven year olds seems grossly wrong and against the whole welfare of children. I hope that the Committee will support this Amendment.
I made an impassioned speech on Second Reading but I should like to follow up the 847 point made by the noble Viscount that the average family can afford to give their children money to buy the milk. How is that going to be supervised? They may not buy milk; they may buy sweets or cigarettes. The point is this. We all know that milk is a balanced food and whether you come to school in the morning with a full"tummy"or go without breakfast, at about 11 o'clock you get a sinking feeling there and a third of a pint of milk will make all the difference. We want to improve the education of our children; we do not want to put a stumbling block in their way at 11 o'clock when they cannot absorb any education. We want to bring them along. I should like to appeal to all medical officers of health who feel as I do about milk for the seven to eleven year olds to certify the whole school as being in need of school milk.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I should like to agree with the noble Lord about the sinking feeling. Where I went to school we had our first class of the day before taking any milk or food of any sort. I agree that there is quite a sinking feeling.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I am not seeking to cut short the deliberations of the Committee, but I wonder whether I may make four quick points. I should have thought that if it is shown that children are going to school hungry, whether to new schools or to old schools, it will be the inescapable responsibility of any Government to rethink the policy on nutrition. Secondly, I wonder whether I may, with great respect, put it to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that the Government do take this point of view. The Government, like the noble Baroness, Lady Berkeley, also take the view that nutritional standards have changed since the noble Lord introduced the National Milk Scheme in the dark and early days of the war. The noble Lord referred to Lord Woolton. I can remember the"Woolton Surprise ". This is not a flippant remark. It was a baked potato and in the middle was minced meat. Anyone who remembers that dish in the years between 1940 and 1945 will remember that as the years went by, so you dug deeper and deeper 848 into the potato to find the minced meat. We do not live in quite that kind of situation to-day. All I would ask the noble Lord to do, with his customary generosity, is to weigh what I am going to put to the House and see whether he still believes that the nutritional standards of to-day and the steps the Government are taking concurrently with this Bill do not make the noble Lord change his mind with regard to the Division Lobbies.
My third point is that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, in moving this Amendment asked specific questions about school building. I did not intend to put to the Committee specific matters about school building. Not once, but again and again, he asked for specific figures. He referred to the primary schools building programme. Off the cuff, I can say this. As the previous Government left the primary schools building programme, it would have taken about twenty years to do away with the pre-1903 primary schools. At the present rate of progress it will take something like six to seven years. We are talking about a substantial difference in this field.
Fourthly, and lastly, perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I do not range quite so widely as some of your Lordships have done in the interesting and expert speeches which have been made, some of which, I must say, touched on Amendments to follow. May I descend for a moment from the heights to which your Lordships' oratory has led us and come to the effect of this Amendment? Under the Amendment the general entitlement to free school milk would continue to the age at which the vast majority of pupils are transferred from primary to secondary schools. The situation ought to be clear to the Committee. In 1968 the previous Government removed free milk from secondary schools. This meant that any pupil at a primary school, at whatever age, continued with free milk.
This arrangement included those middle schools, which were deemed primary, but owing to an oversight, to which everyone was a party, no-one foresaw that no arrangement was made for the handful of middle schools which were deemed secondary schools. So, in 849 1970 a Bill was passed, through the good offices of Mr. McNamara in another place, and this entitled pupils in middle schools deemed secondary to free milk up to their twelfth birthday. So hitherto, up to this moment, the arrangement has been no milk in secondary schools since 1968, milk in all middle schools deemed to be primary and in middle schools deemed to be secondary up to the age of twelve. That is the present position. The effect of these Amendments would be to continue free milk for most pupils' primary school life, but suddenly to cut it off for those who remain at primary and middle schools if they go on at those schools, until they are twelve. This is a small, ragged aspect of the Amendment, but I make no complaint of that. In addition, the Amendments would have the undesirable effect of reintroducing free milk into secondary schools—at least in England and Wales; the date of transfer in Scotland is when a child becomes twelve. There would be consequent inconveniences for local authorities in the schools which any noble Lord can check if he care to consult with those bodies.
What I am surprised at in replying to this Amendment is that, having made one perhaps rather inaccurate shot in 1968 with the withdrawal of free milk from secondary schools, the Government should be asked to introduce or reintroduce free milk to secondary schools. If the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, would consult local authorities she would find, I feel sure, something which they would not like and that the view which her Party took in 1968 is administratively wrong. The only charitable view which I can take—the noble Baroness is shaking her head but I have still to make the point—is that noble Lords opposite are not entirely seized of the effect of their Amendments. However, there are more substantial points between the two sides of the Committee than this.
The Government believe that the age for giving free milk can cease at the end of the summer term after the seventh birthday, probably, on average, at seven and a half years of age; it may be older or younger. Like the Party opposite, we do not know for a fact, despite all that we have heard this afternoon, whether that is an absolutely accurate age. We admit that, and the reason why we do not know whether it is absolutely 850 accurate to choose that age is, as I sought to explain on Second Reading, that, like the previous Government, we have not received advice from the Chief Medical Officer and his Committee that withdrawal of milk can be harmful to primary school pupils. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, I agree that the younger the child the greater the care that is needed. That is the reason why your Lordships should open the Bill. You will see that we retain the medical entitlement for almost exactly the same age groups of pupils as those receiving free milk since 1968 and we also add the new power for local authorities to sell milk.
We believe that, contrary to what has been said to some noble Lords, where milk is available for sale, there is every reason to expect that it will be bought. Increasingly schools are starting with more freedom of choice in their school meals service; and with this, of course, goes the regulation—I believe Regulation 5(2)—to sell food and other refeshments: because, again, since 1968, owing to an oversight, it simply has not been possible to make milk available at all in secondary schools. This has been denied to local authorities and the children concerned. In dismissing this new power, as noble Lords opposite have been doing, I would ask them to remember the oversight which occurred in the 1968 legislation. I would also ask noble Lords not to disregard the very considerable social security rights which are now being introduced. My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said he thought that if a family was on supplementary benefit there was a right to free school milk. Some of your Lordships seemed to take the view that as he said that it was something which he should know about, but I think that his mistake was very reasonable. This year there have been increased child tax allowances, family income supplement, increases in supplementary benefit and sickness and unemployment benefit—all concurrently taking place with the introduction of this Bill.
The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, mentioned unemployment, but what she failed to mention is that from September 20 there will be an increase in unemployment benefit. If we take a family with 851 three children at school we find that they have an extra £2 10s. (using old currency) coming into the family per week. The same sort of family with three children at school on supplementary benefit will have £2 more per week. I have to point out that this happens to be a small matter—so-called—of twenty times more than will be required per week for a child's milk. Your Lordships may not like the way this is done, but I think it reasonable to point out that my noble friend made a reasonable mistake when he said that he thought supplementary benefit equated with free school milk.
§ BARONESS BIRK
I am sure the noble Lord must be aware of the lack of take-up. Very soon, as has been pointed out over the week-end, the Government will be spending more on advertising the supplement than in handing it out. The reason why this point about milk is so important is simply that the supplementary benefit is not being taken up.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I hope the noble Baroness is not suggesting that when over 50,000 will be entitled to family income supplementary benefit as from tomorrow the fact that the scheme is not advertised as economically as she would like means that these people will not be entitled to their supplementary benefit. I must say that that is a novel and entirely new point of view from the other side of the Committee.
Like my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, although we obviously disagree on these points, I am surprised that noble Lords opposite have not at least given nodding recognition to these huge extra—I do not like to call them benefits, but extra rights introduced in this year. I would have hoped that, in calling in aid Dr. Lynch particularly, the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, would have weighed some value of the social security rights. The Government are showing good faith and these exist. On Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, perfectly correctly quoted from a recent article in the New Scientist by Dr. Lynch and his colleague, Dr. de la Paz, on their estimates of malnutrition. He has every right to draw attention to the opinions of two very distinguished socioliogists, but why not draw attention to measures which the 852 Government are taking to try to keep up incomes? There was the undertaking which I gave the House on Second Reading on behalf of my right honourable friend that as soon as Dr. Lynch's survey comes out it will be put to the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food. I assure your Lordships that it will be awaited hopefully and dealt with quickly.
One thing which does become clear from the remarks made in this debate is that your Lordships require, before I sit down, a very quick sketch of the measures being taken to monitor and check the effect on nutrition to-day. Very swiftly, may I first remind your Lordships of the considerable amount of data already available through the routine medical examinations carried on by the school health service and of the existing data from the National Food Survey, which is a continuous sampling inquiry into domestic food consumption, expenditure and nutrition in private households in Great Britain. In future this information is going to be used differently, in that it will be analysed to test the extent parents make good at home the milk which perhaps is no longer going to be consumed in school. These are what might be called adjustments to the existing sources of large-scale information to make them more useful in a monitoring sense. In addition, a survey is going on in Kent and another in Birmingham. I am bound to say, even under the barrage of expert and threatening advice from the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, that the impression coming in from the surveys so far is that the findings are in harmony with those of the school health survey—that is, that the general nutritional state of our school population is good, with little or no sign of malnutrition to be observed. As I think your Lordships know, this was gone into in considerable detail in another place.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
The reason for that was described by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and myself. That fact is that we established a nutritional service which was administered all over the country and this is the result. The noble Lord will not be able to stand up at that Box in a few years' time and in that suave manner of his make that statement, if the Party in office stays in power for a few years and this policy of theirs is introduced.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I am sure that the noble Baroness wants to be fair to the House. My remarks apply to secondary schools just as much as to primary schools. The Party opposite withdrew milk from secondary schoolchildren in 1968, and now it would be possible to see the effects of malnutrition among secondary schoolchildren if it were there. In addition, a sub-committee of the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy has recommended that a major survey should be put in hand to study the possible effects of the changes in the arrangements in milk on growth, nutrition and health status of schoolchildren. This survey will involve the study of several thousands of children a year from different areas of the country and it would take into account not only the physical measurements of children but also such factors as health history, dietary information and socio-economic status. I am sorry to take up your Lordships' time, but I felt that this is something your Lordships would want to know, particularly bearing in mind the sort of remarks made, with all his experience, by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and other noble Lords.
May I finish by saying that the Government believe genuinely that the savings made by this Bill are part of a strategy, not a hypothecation (I think that is the word) of particular pieces of expenditure, to reduce taxation and to concentrate on priorities. I should not have thought that there was so much between us to to divide the two sides of the House. If noble Lords will look at the House of Commons Hansard of November 4, 1968, they will see that when the then Minister announced the withdrawal of free school meals from the fourth and subsequent children in a family, his reason was that the £4 million he was going to save"could be more wisely applied ". When the last Government announced the second increase in school meals charges (incidentally a 75 per cent. increase in school meals by one Government is not bad going), the Minister once again referred to the expenditure needed in other areas of the educational service. I do not in the least criticise previous Ministers for giving this as their reason, because this is precisely the reason for this Bill. The Amendment before us is fundamental, because it would remove the majority 854 of the intended saving. Of course, specific savings are not specifically earmarked but I suggest that the Government are remaining true to their word. Taxation has been reduced and my right honourable friend is pursuing a primary schools building programme which is earning her the gratitude of the education service.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I had intended supporting the Amendment before the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, spoke, and I still feel that I ought to support it. I do not know anything about nutritional values, because I am not a doctor. What I do know is that every morning of my life my children say either to my wife or to me,"What is for break?" what is there to eat in the mid-morning break? They are given an apple or something of that kind. In maintained schools where milk is provided—and I have recently been over a whole series of schools, primary, middle and secondary, and seen this happen—children have milk. When this milk is not naturally available, they are going to turn to their parents and ask for something for the break. If there is nothing in the house, they will be given some coppers and told,"Get yourself something on the way." They will buy sweets. It is well known that sweets are the biggest enemy of dental health. I understand that in Birmingham a survey has just been carried out showing that as a result of sweet-eating, dental caries is on the increase. If the children do not have sweets, they are likely to buy a bun, which has no nutritional value it just fills them up. I do not accept that a nutritional survey is necessarily an argument for removing something which is naturally at hand and which the children can take in line with other children.
The only comment I should like to make on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, is on this aspect of administrative convenience, of tidying up. We have heard so much in recent years, not only from the present Government but also from Governments of the past, that for administrative purposes, tidying-up purposes, it is more convenient to do so-and-so. I suggest that it is not going to be at all a tidying process to pull the teeth out of children at fourteen or fifteen and provide them with artificial dentures. Yet I am convinced that this is exactly what is going to happen if we encourage 855 children by their own volition, or through the natural laziness of their parents—because parents are lazy—to eat in the mid-morning break foods that are not suitable. If the Government feel that seven to eleven is the wrong period, then why cannot they suggest a period that is administratively more convenient. I understand that schools work in groups of four to eight, eight to twelve and twelve upwards. Let us have milk available in the primary and middle schools. I fail to see the reasoning of the noble Lord's argument there.
§ LORD STONHAM
Like the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat, I am no nutritional expert, but one does not need to be an expert to know the effect of school milk on children. My noble friend Lady Summerskill has given a doctor's evidence on this, but anyone who is not completely blind to facts can see it everywhere he goes. As a result of school milk the whole nation has been substantially upgraded in health. My noble friend Lady Summerskill said that this is a Cabinet decision and that it would not have been made if any Member of the Cabinet had seen hungry children. I have. I have certainly seen one hungry child, aged about one year. This child was bandy-legged. It had started to try to walk, and one leg turned over. The child was then introduced to milk, and was given all that it needed to drink and to eat. At times it was amusing to see the child consuming large quantities of food, because it was hungry. It took several years of proper feeding before that undersized, puny child had straight limbs on which to walk. The child will never have good teeth: the teeth were rotten as soon as they were formed.
When my noble friend Lord Garnsworthy said that noble Lords opposite may have to stand up to be counted on this issue, I felt that they ought not to stand up and be counted before they realised what they were voting about. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has done his best to deal with details that do not matter. Most of the things that have been discussed in this debate do not matter. It does not matter how much has been spent, or will be spent, on new primary schools: it ought to be spent, anyway.
856 This Amendment is concerned with the health of children. This Bill is a crime against a whole generation of children. I think it is far more important than the Industrial Relations Bill. The health of the whole of the future nation is at stake. This is not just theory, or someone from a political Party speaking about it. This will really happen if children are deprived in this way. The noble Baroness opposite said, quite rightly, that money is spent on cigarettes, pools and sweets that should be spent on milk for children. But it is still the children about whom we are talking, and if the Government take away this milk, the children will not have milk regularly. That is the most important thing. It is their"elevenses"every day, and it is put into them.
I think it was Winston Churchill who once said that the finest way of building up a healthy nation was to put milk into babies. This is the literal truth. The object of this Bill is to take milk away when they are a little older than babies. But we are talking about children of seven and a halt according to the noble Lord; and they are babies. To stop this small amount of milk every day of the week is a real deprivation and its effect will be seen in their figures—not in statistics. The noble Lord can mull through the civil servants' notes and come up with a confusing answer, as he has to-day, but he will not get away from the fact that the nation's health will be adversely affected. Noble Lords may smile, but this is the fact. I hope your Lordships will support this Amendment. If you do not, but decide to stand up and be counted on the other side, I hope you will realise that you are deliberately depriving children of necessary substance. I do not think that any noble Lord in this House would knowingly do this; but that is what they will be doing. I support the Amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
I should like to say straight away that I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I appreciate very much the effort that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, made to make bricks out of milk straws. I think he has the sympathy of the whole Committee. One has the feeling that his instincts are right, and that if a decision of this kind had 857 to be made by him it would not be made. I hope that I do the noble Lord no injustice, and I certainly wish him no harm in saying that. But if I am any judge of character, I would think that he cannot relish the task that has been thrown upon him.
This is a small Bill, and a figure of £9 million may not be much when one considers the fantastic sums that are spent on other things. The concern that has been shown in this Committee is an indication that it is a matter of priorities, and while it is only a matter of £9 million, children between the age of seven and eleven count a great deal. I think it right and proper that we should take a deal of time in considering what we do, or fail to do, in order to enable them to benefit as much as possible from their years at school. I do not think anybody would dare to contest the statement that the underfed child is unable fully to take advantage of the education offered to it.
I am extremely pleased that this afternoon I am supported by two professionals. My noble friend Baroness Summerskill speaks of course as a doctor. I am also supported in tabling this Amendment by my noble friend Lady Phillips, who speaks from long experience as a teacher: I can only speak as a layman. To those of your Lordships who have suggested that we can wait until we see malnutrition developing before we decide to do anything about it—because that is what some statements made on the other side amount to—may I say that my mind goes back to the years before the war when I visited a school and saw a boy with sores on his legs. I inquired of the headmaster why this was so, and he replied:"Because he is undernourished." There was a manager at that school, and I said:"That boy ought to be taken before the doctor at once." Your Lordships may think that the headmaster ought to have acted on his own. But it was not easy in those days, when attitudes towards providing free milk and school meals were so vastly different from what they are to-day.
I am a little surprised that so many of your Lordships should think that parents are going to make a public showing of their poverty. After all, people are not proud of poverty. I hope that that point may be taken. A number of points that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, made will fall to be answered in regard to later 858 Amendments, but I would warn him—and I would say to the Committee—that, before too much notice is taken of what is going to happen next September, I trust the Committee will appreciate the failure to take up family income supplements on the scale that we are advised by the Department is the case at the moment. It will be more appropriate perhaps to go into that aspect a little more thoroughly later.
May I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Berkeley: do not underestimate what lop a week means to a poor family. It means two shillings per child—and, of course, halfpennies and new pennies count more than they used to do—or four shillings a week for two children and many families will have two children in this age group. So it means a very considerable sum. And if your Lordships have no conception of the importance of money like this, then may I say again that I think some figures may be produced in relation to subsequent Amendments which will surprise one or two of your Lordships who appear to think that this is a land flowing with milk and honey for everybody. If we talk about averages, let us remember those who are below the line.
I always enjoy listening to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, for his sincerity is evident, and I remember how kind he was to me when I made my maiden speech. I always listen to the noble Viscount with care, but I do not think that he understands how some people live. I am quite sure that if he did understand he would not have made the speech he did this evening. It is absolutely no use running away with the notion that this Bill will not cause hardship. It is going to cause hardship, and since the amount of money is, comparatively, so small, it is avoidable hardship, and the Government ought not to be responsible for imposing it.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was very fair and quite entitled to draw attention to the oversights made in 1968. I hope this Government is never responsible for any oversights; and if we have been responsible for oversights then there is no reason, if they have been recognised, why further oversights should be made now. But the oversight we did not make in 1968 was to deprive schoolchildren aged seven to eleven of school 859 milk. We decided that it was a risk that could not be taken. I am not going to defend the decision to deprive secondary schoolchildren of school milk. I never have defended it, and I do not propose to do so now. But I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that if he continues to argue in that sort of way he will soon be arguing that we can safely deprive the five to seven-year-olds as well; and I wonder whether the object of the Secretary of State is not at some time to destroy free milk and the school meals service entirely. If we are going to listen to the kind of speeches made in the other place, and one or two of those that have been made here already this evening, a great many people will be inclined to think that the welfare side of education is not at the present time in safe hands.
I do not defend the oversights in 1968, but the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has drawn attention to what the last Government did not do in regard to replacing old and unsatisfactory primary schools. At least he might have said that we did introduce the idea of educational priority areas. The then Secretary of State thought that was a very desirable priority in regard to primary school improvements. But there was a very great need indeed to give attention to the needs of secondary schools. We have had to provide a considerable amount of new building. If we had not, what would have happened? Many of your Lordships will be members of boards of governors and some, like myself, will be chairmen, and
§ they will know the numbers of over-large classes that we have had in our secondary schools. Something had to be done about them.
§ We were dealing with an age group which not merely deserved but was entitled to opportunities for specialist education that the old secondary schools did not afford. But the noble Lord might also take note of the fact that the Secretary of State then was under an obligation to provide additional secondary school accommodation to meet the situation arising from the raising of the school-leaving age which is due to take place in 1972. I have already reminded the Committee that the present Administration, in terms of improvements or replacements of secondary schools, is making no provision at all for the years 1972 to 1974.
§ Attention has been drawn to the defects of this Amendment, and I have little doubt that attention will be drawn to the defects of other Amendments. If your Lordships will carry this Amendment, if the Government want to they can remedy the defects. If they do not desire to remedy the defects, then I give this undertaking: that in so far as my friends are able to assist me I will table Amendments at a later stage that may overcome any such difficulties. Finally, may I remind the Committee that we are talking about one-third of a pint of milk for each child between the age of seven and eleven.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 68; Not-Contents, 73.861
|Amulree, L.||Energlyn, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.|
|Archibald, L.||Foot, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Fulton, L.||London, L.Bp.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Gaitskell, Bs.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Gardiner, L.||McLeavy, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Nathan, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Geddes of Epsom, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]|
|Bristol, L.Bp.||Hawke, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Brockway, L.||Hayter, L.||Reay, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Henderson, L.||Redcliffe-Maud, L.|
|Byers, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Champion, L.||Hoy, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Chorley, L.||Hunt, L.||Seear, Bs.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||Shackleton, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Jacques, L.||Slater, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Janner, L.||Snow, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Leatherland, L.||Somers, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Sorensen, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Strabolgi, L.||Swaythling, L.||White, Bs.|
|Strang, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Summerskill, Bs.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Ebbisham, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Alport, L.||Eccles, V.||Milverton, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Monck, V.|
|Balerno, L.||Ferrers, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Fortescue, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Belstead, L.||Grenfell, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Gridley, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hacking, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hailes, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Oswald, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Colgrain, L.||Harding of Petherton, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Hood, V.||Selsdon, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Ilford, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Strathcarron, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Jessel, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Kilmany, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Latymer, L.||Tenby, V.|
|de Clifford, L.||Lothian, M.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Lyell, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Digby, L.||Mancroft, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.5 p.m.
BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 17, after (" and ") insert (" either ").
§ The noble Baroness said: I beg to move this Amendment standing in the names of my noble friends and myself. With the permission of the Committee, I will speak to Amendment No. 4 as No. 2 is a paving Amendment to Amendment No. 4. Here we are concerned with the preventive value of milk. As was discussed in the previous Amendment, we are trying to make the point that it is better to prevent rather than to attempt to cure. We know that areas of poverty exist in our society to a degree which is a challenge to us. It is useful to remind ourselves of some of the situations to be seen in Wales, the Midlands and the North, particularly in view of some of the comments made by noble Lords on the last Amendment. Some of the figures I shall give have been quoted in another place and can easily be substantiated.
§ In the North there are a quarter of a million men over the age of 21 earning less than £24 gross per week—I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, is not in his 862 place. That involves 39 per cent. of the men employed. This sum of £24 is what they receive before national insurance or any other deductions have been made, and it is inclusive of overtime. This total includes 21,000 men with gross earnings under £15 per week. Those with gross earnings of between £15 and £20 number another 116,000. I know that again I shall be told by the Minister that we have the family income supplement. Although the figures vary on the lack of take up, I quote the one printed in a Sunday newspaper yesterday which alleged that only 13 per cent. of those entitled had taken up this supplement. The Minister may disagree with this, but at least he cannot tell me that 50 per cent. of those entitled have already taken up their entitlement.
§ No one will question that the people in these areas can easily be identified. None of your Lordships will question the view that it is infinitely preferable to prevent the occurrence of medical need rather than to try to cure the condition. Surely it is better to avoid damage rather than to wait to see if it occurs, as my noble friend has previously explained. I call in aid of this Amendment the fact that a certain Mrs. Simey, a councillor, reported that a study had taken place in an area in Liverpool where they were more concerned about the social milk 863 than the medical milk. I am not sure whether all your Lordships have appreciated that the Bill does not accept the idea of poverty at all; it deals merely with the social effect. She states that a remarkable study was undertaken in Liverpool of social malaise in children. The people looked into the various factors which led to this malaise. They found that broken homes were involved, that mental backwardness was the result of mental and physical fatigue, and that in certain areas there was great poverty.
§ It is not difficult to identify the areas to which this Amendment refer. The Bill already excepts the principle of special categories. Milk cannot be supplied except to these special categories. We see that free school meals are given in very high proportion in certain areas. That gives an indication of the areas with which this Amendment is concerned. In the North-East, in Gateshead, 44 per cent. of school meals provided are free. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 47 per cent. of the meals are free. In South Shields the figure is 49 per cent. In some counties in Wales 36 per cent. are free.
§ We are not asking that every area should necessarily be included. We are asking that it should be possible to identify large areas. This can easily be done; we all know the areas of poverty; we know the areas which have already been decreed as areas of development. This is a simple Amendment, and I appeal to the humanity of your Lordships—something which I have seen in relation to other matters that we have discussed—to make it possible to incorporate these Amendments in the Bill.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I certainly acknowledge the motive which lies behind the Amendments. The"logic of positive discrimination ", the phrase the Plowden Committee coined, is the practical method which those of us interested and involved in education know for giving special attention where it is most needed. In this respect my heart warms to the Amendments. The noble Baroness perhaps will not be surprised if I say that the Amendments as drafted certainly present special problems and I would put it to your Lordships that I think that the Bill renders them in some ways unnecessary.
864 In introducing these Amendments the noble Baroness was quite specific in regard to details of income in certain parts of the country, and the Committee I think followed her with the greatest interest. I only wish that the Amendments were equally specific. They are open to the objection that they are vague. For instance, what is"a significant number "? What is"area or part of an area "? I am not saying this in any hair-splitting frame of mind. If your Lordships look carefully at the text of the Bill it will be seen that these Amendments would lay a duty on the authorities for the provision of free school milk in these areas. It has been the principle, anyway in educational priority areas, that such have never been designated. The Department of Education has criteria and indeed there are criteria for the urban programme, and by this method decisions are reached on where and how special assistance shall be given—a different concept, if I may say so, to a duty that pupils in vaguely defined circumstances should receive free school milk.
The certificate imposing that duty would fall to the medical officer. This is in the text of the Amendments. I should have thought that there would be drawbacks on ethical grounds for a medical officer to give a blanket certificate to children in certain areas without having even examined those concerned. I look round for noble Lords in the medical profession in the House; perhaps the noble Baroness will be speaking again in a moment. It is not a debating point, I should have thought there were severe drawbacks on ethical grounds to this. Clause 1(1)(b) already covers the position of older pupils with a health requirement. If the medical officer thinks that a pupil or a number of pupils need milk on health grounds it is open to the medical officer to certify to this effect, but of course on an individual basis. It has always been the aim of central Government, local government and members of the teaching profession to see that those who receive free school meals should not be identified. This is a matter to which the Department of Education referred quite recently in Circular 3/71 on February 9 of this year. As we know, sometimes schools are not entirely successful in this most difficult of tasks. Sometimes the teachers are wonderfully 865 successful, and if they are they have achieved an objective which I am sure is common ground to both sides of this Committee. I realise that milk on medical grounds will probably breach this objective—the objective that children should not be identified when they are receiving not a benefit but a right. My right honourable friend gave this matter very careful thought and we were certain in the end that, on balance, the advantage lay in making milk available on these grounds.
Consider the alternative offered by these Amendments. The Amendments are totally unselective. If a medical officer gives a certificate for an area or part of an area it is for every pupil regardless of need. In another place an Amendment was moved in the Standing Committee to equate free meals with free milk, once again, something with which one has the greatest sympathy; but in having to resist it the Government were able to say in reply that it was calculated that the cost would be about £1.2 million. I am not in that happy circumstance this afternoon. The cost of these Amendments is unlimited and it is to avoid spreading help indiscriminately that in framing this Bill we have had regard to the increased and new social security rights which are being instituted this year (and I referred to them at great length on the previous Amendment), which will go to those who need them, and which can be costed.
Before finishing may I just say that I meant it sincerely when I said to the noble Baroness that I had every sympathy with these Amendments. But on the last Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, referred in his closing remarks to monitoring, and drew attention to the danger that monitoring might be shutting the door after the horse had bolted; that malnutrition might have occurred and would not be discovered until monitoring had occurred. I would, for the Record, make it absolutely clear that monitoring (and the details which I gave to the House on a previous Amendment) is not something that is going to happen; it is already happening. Earlier I mentioned Kent and Birmingham, and although I know that this is not the whole answer I would like to make it clear that the steps which the Government are taking, and which, of course, were left over 866 from the previous Government, are genuine steps to see that a running check is kept on the nutritional standards of the nation.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
I wonder if the noble Lord would explain how monitoring is going to determine the point at which the doctor will decide that milk ought to be supplied because of its preventive value.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The point at which milk should be supplied will be entirely at the discretion of the medical officer; it will be at his discretion for how long the milk shall be supplied. It will be at the discretion of the school medical officer, in the light of a great deal of other information given him by people in different services, on what grounds exactly milk shall be supplied. If monitoring returns—I know that my noble friend Lord Ilford is concerned with this side of the Bill—in the future show that nationally or regionally there is real cause for concern, then that is the moment when medical officers may be concerned, and the Government of the day will be concerned, to see that they act on the monitoring results.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
It is the preventive aspect of the matter that I should like the noble Lord to devote his attention to. It is placing an enormous responsibility on the medical officer to decide in advance of anybody having noticed that malnutrition has begun or is likely to begin, and I beg the Government to appreciate that the preventive aspect is very, very important. We are dealing with an age group where risks are not warranted.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
Perhaps we could return to the preventive aspect from the point of view of the medical officers on the next Amendment. On the preventive aspect from the point of view of central Government, I put to the Committee on the last Amendment that already there have been informal contacts between those who are undertaking monitoring exercises at the moment, and I said it was our impression at the Department of Education that the view we have from the School Medical I Service, as a result of surveys, is that the nutrition of the children of this country is not declining but improving.
867 May I ask noble Lords a question? I should be interested to know how far noble Lords opposite have thought through the practicalities of these Amendments. Has the noble Lord, I wonder, discussed them with the local authority associations, or the Association of Education Committees. Has the noble Baroness considered the undesirability of openly drawing attention to certain areas within a local authority area when the objective can be, and we on this side of the Committee believe it will be, achieved through social security rather than through an allocation specifically for milk? This is the reason why the Bill makes provision for medical entitlement, which will be at the discretion of medical officers, who will obviously consider all the different aspects in a particular case. These are the reasons why there is the power to sell milk. By no means all those who need milk will necessarily be unable to pay. The social security rights which I have outlined before are relevant to these Amendments; and although I support the spirit behind the Amendments, they are, I believe, on practical grounds misconceived.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
The Minister says that we have not thought through the practical effects of these Amendments. I believe that the Government have not thought through the practical difficulties and practical effects of their measures. I do not think noble Lords opposite realise what we find so objectionable about the whole of what we consider to be the not very substantial economies which will result from their measures. I call the measures they are indulging in at the moment a sort of"dunce's cap"measures. We have the dunce's cap; we have the poverty cap; we have the medical cap—all this categorising of children, which obviously is not a good thing at all. As to what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said about selling milk, I am always rather amused at this proposition, because we have been told that free milk has been thrown down the drain. However, when the Government are going to sell milk, then parents are going to pay for it and children are going to drink it. There seems to me something very odd about this contention.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I want to answer a question the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, put to me. I think the whole House realises that he is speaking from a very weak brief, which the last Division proved. I was astonished when he descended to a most curious argument in asking me whether the medical profession would not disapprove of what he called a blanket certificate. Does he realise that when nutritional policy was introduced many years ago the medical profession did not insist that before every child was given milk at school the child should be examined? The medical profession believes in preventive medicine. During the war we distributed food according to needs. The noble Lord, by the way, tried to answer the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, by saying that what he said was due to the fact that a war was on. The war came into the matter only because the Government were then in a strong position to say,"Now we will feed people according to their needs and they will not be able to demand food according to the amount of money in their pockets." We distributed food to certain sections; we gave more of a certain kind because it was necessary.
The medical profession would not disapprove of this. The medical profession in this century knows that prevention is infinitely better than cure. That is the essence of modern medicine. If the medical profession was told that some area where the average income was low was where children were going to be given milk or meals, the noble Lord need not worry that there would be an outcry from the British Medical Association. They would say,"Thank Heavens we have a humane Government! "
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I would suggest to your Lordships that there is not so much between the two sides of the Committee on this Amendment. I asked Lady Summerskill a question and she has given me the answer. I entirely take from the noble Baroness that the medical profession would approve of a certificate of this kind. Under the Amendment, this would be done in blanket form: under the Bill, it would be done in individual form. If the movers of the Amendment are correct in their assumption, as they may very well be, that there are areas or parts of areas which need this special help, then it will be given through 869 the Bill. The only point is that it will be dealt with on an individual basis by doctors seeing the children concerned individually. That is the difference between the two sides of the Committee, and I suggest it is not as great as perhaps noble Lords at the beginning of the debate on this Amendment may have thought.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
I thank the Minister for his reply. I do not know whether he unconsciously missed the point. Knowing him, I feel sure he was not trying to mislead us. But there is a vast difference between deciding an area where there should be a blanket certificate and examining specific and individual children. May I remind the noble Lord of what was said in another place—I am not sure whether it was said by the Minister or a Junior Minister—when asked about the method of determining whether a child was entitled to have milk. The reply was that every child is medically examined on the first entry to school, and any who at this stage show signs that the continuation of milk might be necessary will be noted for further examination. That is very specific; and if we are trying to avoid embarrassment, I would say that that could be extraordinarily embarrassing, if a child is set aside and it is said,"You are obviously in need of further examination and we will give you milk ". Unless things have changed considerably, a child can miss a medical examination. So far as I recall, the Act says that a child has to be medically examined three times throughout the whole of his school life. Many children do not have more examinations than just that. A terrible extra burden is going to be placed on the already overworked medical officers, whichever way the Government try to deal with this issue. But I feel it would be easy specifically to note an area.
The noble Lord made the point that the phrase"significant number"is very vague and that"area or part of an area"is very vague. I think he will find that both these phrases have been used in Acts of Parliament. This may or may not be an argument in their defence; there may be vague phrases in Acts of Parliament, but we are not introducing words which are not already used in legislation. The noble Lord also said that there was the opportunity to sell 870 milk. Again, the Bill is curiously contradictory on this point. It seems to give milk free to all children attending special schools. Children who attend special schools are not necessarily all in need of free milk, so there is a curious anomaly here. And since the noble Lord is speaking about procedures and difficulties, I would refer him to the procedure the parent has to go through if he or she thinks a child needs milk. These were the suggestions given by the Minister in another place. She can approach the headmaster, she can approach the child's teacher, she can approach the educational welfare officer for the district (always supposing that she can find him and ask for the child to be seen by the school doctor, or she can ask the family doctor to make representations to the school doctor in order that the child may be seen. Surely nothing could be more complicated than that. As I said last week when we were talking about social security, my experience is that the less literate people are the more difficulty they have in understanding the ways in which they can obtain their rights.
The blanket exception of an area will eliminate all these problems. There will not be a great number of areas, please God!, because we hope that things will be better eventually, but in the meantime it will give an opportunity to those areas that I have named specifically. There are quite easy ways of identifying them, which the Minister will recognise, and I ask again that he will take the opportunity to take this Amendment back and reconsider it. Perhaps the Government will bring forward a better Amendment because we know that we shall be told that they are all badly drafted. As I said last week, this puzzles me. I have drafted resolutions and amendments all my life, but when it comes to Parliamentary draftsmanship it seems that simple words do not have any meaning at all. However, I know from my own small excursion into Government that if the Government really want an Amendment the drafting is a small matter.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I should like to add one sentence to the arguments which have been put forward. One of the most outstanding features about the Plowden Report was that it gave extra 871 help to certain areas, and it seems to me that there would be no objection to defining areas which were also defined by the Plowden Report.
§ 6.40 p.m.
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 20, after (" by ") insert (" a qualified medical practitioner or ").
§ The noble Lord said: I rise again to move this Amendment which I have tabled jointly with my noble friends Lady Phillips and Lady Summerskill. During the Second Reading debate there was some discussion about bringing in the family doctor to help in regard to the issuing of medical certificates, to the effect872
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 46; Not-Contents, 75.871
|Archibald, L.||Henderson, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Seear, Bs.|
|Beswick, L.||Hoy, L.||Segal, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hunt, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Jacques, L.||Slater, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Janner, L.||Snow, L.|
|Champion, L.||Leatherland, L.||Somers, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Strang, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Foot, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Plummer, Bs.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Reay, L.||White, Bs.|
|Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Rusholme, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Eccles, V.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Atholl, D.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Monck, V.|
|Balerno, L.||Ferrers, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Fortescue, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Belstead, L.||Gowrie, E. [Teller.]||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Gray, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Grenfell, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Gridley, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hacking, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hailes, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Sandford, L.|
|Colgrain, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Harding of Petherton, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hood, V.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Craigavon, V.||Ilford, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Strathclyde, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Jessel, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Kilmany, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Latymer, L.||Tenby, V.|
|de Clifford, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L.||Lyell, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Digby, L.||Mancroft, L.||Wolverton, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ that a pupil's health required that he should be provided with milk at school, and of course the discussion was concerned with free milk. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, spoke most sympathetically, and in reply to a question which he himself posed, asking why the family doctor should not have a hand in any recommendation for free milk, I understood him to say that he cordially agreed, and that if we gave the Bill a Second Reading it was a matter we might like to look at more closely.
§ This Amendment provides just that opportunity for that closer look, and for 873 a real and practical demonstration, if I may say so with respect, not only of sympathy on the noble Lord's part, but of what is more important, understanding. I fancy it is the sort of gesture we have reason to anticipate we might expect to see from him, not on his performance on this Bill but on his general performance in the House in the past. He recognises, as he said at Second Reading, that the family doctor knows his patients, and by accepting this Amendment he will show his faith in the medical practitioner as the responsible and trustworthy person we know him or her to be.
§ One of the most remarkable features of this Bill is that nowhere does it recognise that family income may be too low to permit the purchase of school milk. The only grounds on which free milk may be obtained for the seven to eleven year olds is by way of medical certificates certifying medical need. It does not matter how poor the family. For once the Government apply no means test, only a medical needs test. I think many members of the Committee feel, with me, that an impossible load is being placed on the school medical officer. I do hope the Minister will not repeat the arguments and suggestions that were advanced in another place. I trust he will go further than he did on Second Reading, when he spoke of the child's doctor having a hand in recommending the bringing to the notice of the school medical officer any need in the child, as I understood him then to put it.
§ Surely if a qualified general practitioner certifies need that ought to be enough. What more can be required? If a general practitioner recommends that milk ought to be supplied for medical reasons, then I suggest to the Committee it ought to be available without further difficulty. If it is not to be automatic approval of the recommendation of the general practitioner, what is going to happen if the school medical officer disagrees? I do suggest that if it is seriously put forward that the general practitioner ought properly to be brought in, and then when he has made a recommendation the school medical officer is in a position not to approve it, a very difficult situation indeed will have been created.874
§ I think it would be helpful, accepting so much that is wrong in the Bill, if this Amendment could be made; at least, it would ease the position very considerably. I hope the view will be taken, not only by the Committee but by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that this is a constructive Amendment, that it meets points raised on Second Reading by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, and I hope it will commend itself to the Committee. I beg to move.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
Having listened throughout the Committee stage of this Bill, and having read fairly thoroughly the proceedings in another place, I am bound to say that taking the Bill as a whole it is very much a"curate's egg"of a Bill. There is a good deal of logic behind a number of the recommendations, but I am bound to say that some of the arguments that have been put forward have been taken in a somewhat cavalier fashion, if I may say so, by our Front Bench on this side.
If I may turn to this Amendment, it is a slightly different Amendment from what I proposed during the course of my Second Reading speech, because I proposed then, in a somewhat hurried speech at a very late hour on a Friday afternoon, that there should be consultation with the family doctor, rather than his recommendations a an alternative. In column 1373 at the Second Reading my noble friend Lord Belstead, in a very thoughtful and reasoned reply, did say—and I paraphrase what he said in the interests of time—that he cordially agreed with what I recommended, and went on to say that there were certain difficulties, as instanced in another place.
As I said earlier, I have read the proceedings of another place in Standing Committee, and of course there are two difficulties which can immediately be raised, and it would be fair to recognise them. The first is that it is an imposition on the family doctor's time. One recognises this. Bat at the same time, as has been pointed out, it is an imposition on the school medical officer's time as well. Secondly, it can be argued that a child moving with its parents into a new area may not have registered with a family doctor, or the family doctor may not be familiar with the child. At the same 875 time, presumably, if necessary the family doctor can liaise with the doctor in the area whence the child originally came.
I do think this is a case where the family doctor ought to have an important say. After all, the conditions under which the exemptions will be made to the Bill are basically conditions in which the child needs milk through malnutrition or something of that kind, and it is the family doctor who is the best judge of this, the doctor who knows the child. The school medical officer deals with a great many children, possibly from different areas if it is a school covering a large area. The family doctor nowadays may admittedly have a large patient roll, but he or she is the person closest to the child and to the child's parents. Although I do not think the Amendment as drafted would completely meet the case, I do hope that my noble friend will give very careful consideration to it, and make consultation with the family doctor a much easier job than it is now.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I feel the mistake that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has made throughout the debates on this Bill is to over-simplify matters. He has been in a difficult position. Sometimes, even quite passionately, he has explained to the Committee that the whole thing is quite simple: here is a child suffering from malnutrition; that child will be identified by one of the medical officers; the medical officer will give a certificate; and immediately the child will be given more food. The mistake he makes is to identify the physiological condition of malnutrition with the pathological condition. He almost suggests, as I have said before, that malnutrition might be accompanied by a rash so that a doctor could come along and say,"This is malnutrition ". In order to show how difficult this problem is, let me just read to the Committee what the journal The Teacher wrote:The medical officers of health of London decided it was impossible to find a satisfactory medical definition of which children will qualify. Doctor A. B. Stewart, medical adviser to the Inner London Education Authority, said that the problem was to identify those children who were undernourished. But there was no ready-made way of doing this. If half-a-dozen doctors were asked to pick out the undernourished children from a group, 876 they would come up with half a dozen different answers.This is the problem we are faced with.
I regard this Amendment, which of course I shall speak to, as an Amendment which is trying to improve a very bad Bill. The only answer is to feed the children. To introduce a small army of doctors, whether they are medical officers or general practitioners, to try to diagnose malnutrition is bound to fail. The Chief Medical Officer was quite right when he said this. At the moment we have a number of medical officers, and we know they are in very short supply. These medical officers, we are told to-day, perhaps manage to examine each child once a year. If the child is examined in August, what happens to it during all the cold months in the Northern counties? It is not going to be examined at all unless we have a number of ancillary workers—and I presume the teachers are going to be asked to do this—who will, in a kind of a non-professional way (I mean non-medical way) think,"Well, that child looks rather pale and worn out. We must do something about it." We have not been told who the ancillary workers are going to be. All we know is that the medical officers are in very short supply, and they will not be able to examine every child in the country regularly and thoroughly.
Therefore, this Amendment is introduced really to augment the number of doctors. It is suggested that the general practitioner should be invited also to report and certify a child. Now let us picture what is going to happen. Again, I wish that the Cabinet could see into the crowded waiting room of a general practitioner in the industrial areas, where patients sometimes have to wait for an hour or two: where they are often standing; where the harassed doctor—whose expectation of life, if you look in the obituaries of the British Medical Journal, is one of the shortest in the country—knows that the sanction exists that if he makes a wrong diagnosis the coroner could walk in. These are all the pressures upon him.
We are now coming along in this cool, quiet Parliament of ours and saying that this is an excellent idea;"We will add the general practitioner, who knows the family ". Of course he knows many families. In many cases he has attended 877 the child at confinement. He knows the habits of the father. He knows whether the father drinks too much, smokes too much, or indulges in all the little habits which noble Lords on the other side say that he should not do, but he should feed his children. I would like to say, in parenthesis, that this is a 19th-century argument that we heard to-day, and I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard that if men drank and smoked, and did not feed their children, then of course the child should suffer. What an argument! We should punish the child for the drawbacks of his parents!
I was hoping, of course, that Parliament to-day would say that, if the child's parents are feckless, the child must not be punished for this; let the milk go straight into its stomach, and then we shall know that it is being fed. We are suggesting in this Amendment that the doctor who knows the family should come in. Let us have the whole picture. In a feckless family the woman is probably having to work outside, because the husband may well drink his money. She works in a soul-destroying factory all day, comes home to her little terraced home, cleans it, provides a meal, and gets into bed absolutely exhausted. The child is not looking too well, but she knows what this would mean if she went to the doctor. She would have to go in the evening, sit in that crowded waiting room, wait for attention.
In most cases these women know more or less what are the symptoms of pathological conditions from which children would suffer, and if they suffer that kind of symptom: yes, she is a devoted mother, struggling against all kinds of odds, but she will then certainly go along to the surgery. However, she will not go there if the child is fit enough to get about, to go out and play in the street, and to get along to school. So this kind of provision you are making now will only be partial. She will go when the child is suffering, or has a high temperature, and the doctor will not say,"Look here, this child wants better feeding ", because so many mothers would regard that as an affront. What is it suggested he would do? In a nice way, he would say,"I think the child wants more milk at school."
878 Let us impress again that what we are asking for is a third of a pint of milk—that is all—per day. He will say,"I think he wants perhaps extra milk ", but he has to go very gently because, when the certificate is given, the street will soon know about it and the mother is then marked because she is a woman"who has not properly fed her children ". The doctor has given a certificate because he thinks it is suffering from under-nourishment. Here are the complications. Here we are introducing the poor, overworked, harassed general practitioner. We are introducing the mothers of the neighbourhood into a waiting room for this purpose. Most of them will not go. Most of the children with the condition that we are thinking about, malnourished children, will continue to be mal-nourished.
Although I am absolutely supporting this suggestion, nevertheless I know the picture perfectly well and what will happen. This is only trying to patch up a nasty, cruel little Bill. There is only one way of ensuring that these children will be properly nourished, and that is to ensure that the milk is taken at school. I agree with what has been said before: giving the child the money to spend on its way to school is asking for it to go to the sweet shop. The only way to protect this child, and to ensure it is properly cared for, is to see that it is fed at school, and then you can dispense with all these schemes, good as they may appear on paper but which in practice I am afraid will be not very effective.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
I intervene to-night only for a moment, because the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was good enough to make an observation about something I said during the Second Reading debate. I think she did not quite follow the point that I was endeavouring to put—
§ LORD ILFORD
I thought the noble Baroness's indication sufficiently accurate for me to undertake to reply. All that I did on Second Reading was this. I pointed out that the withdrawal of milk from the eleven to fourteen age group 879 had apparently not been followed by malnutrition, or by any undesirable results. This debate has proceeded for quite a long time and a great many speeches have been made, but nobody has ever contested that. No one has ever argued that we ought to be warned by what happened when milk for that age group was withdrawn. If there had been any evidence that the withdrawal of milk then was followed by malnutrition or by harmful results, then I am quite sure that we should have heard about it and that this Committee would have regarded that as sufficient evidence to justify our not going on with this Bill. But that has not been said, and we must assume that the withdrawal of milk from the older group has not been followed by any of the disastrous consequences which have been predicted.
The other point that I desire to make is this. Throughout this debate we seem to have assumed that if the mothers had to pay for their milk they would not buy it; that is to say, when the school milk ceased the mothers would not replace it with milk which they had bought themselves. I do not think we should assume that that is going to be the case. I imagine that when school milk ceased a good many mothers said,"Very well, as we do not get the advantage of milk from school we may as well buy it from our own milkman." I should think a great many mothers have purchased the milk from their own milkman. I do not think we should assume that mothers are so neglectful, and that because school milk ceases there will be no milk at all for the children. I am going to support this Bill for I believe that it will do no harm and will in fact do good.
§ LORD SLATER
I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, saying that the parents ought to be responsible and should provide the milk by buying it from their own milkman. I do not know where the noble Lord lives, but there are some people in this country who cannot even leave a bottle of milk outside someone's door. They either break it or take it away, with the result that many people find that their milk bill goes up week after week. That is simply because of the vandals who go around breaking bottles. The evidence is there to see and it happens in my own area. I should like to take 880 the noble Lords back to the last world war. My wife and I had the unfortunate experience of having our eldest daughter seriously ill. She had almost reached eleven years of age, and a friend said to my wife,"If I were you, I should have another opinion about your daughter ". So they carried that kiddie in blankets along to the school, because the county medical officer of health was in attendance. He wanted to know the name of the medical practitioner who had been attending to the child and he said to my wife,"Are you aware that that child ought to have been receiving extensive treatment?"She was put into the R.V.I. up in Newcastle and she received treatment, followed by a period of convalescence. But it was too late and, after a while, she passed on into a new state of existence and left us. That was during the war and there was no milk in those days.
There is a lot in what my noble friend Lady Summerskill said about the local practitioners. I sometimes meet the local practitioners in my own area and they are overworked because there are not enough of them, although they receive a capitation fee for every patient under their control. There will be extra work if this Amendment is carried, but this is a means of safeguarding the unfortunate child who is not receiving the care and succour which it ought to receive from the parents. It may be in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that we could reach a position where we are too ready to remove parental responsibility, but there may be many cases where unfortunate children are neglected because of the action of their own parents. There is something to be said for having a qualified medical practitioner—and I made some reference to this point on the Industrial Relations Bill—because local authorities, rural authorities and even county authorities have people who can be called upon if required. I sincerely hope that the Minister will say that he is prepared to accept this Amendment, which goes some way to assisting these unfortunate children.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The effect of these Amendments would be to oblige a local education authority to provide free milk on a certificate from a doctor. The Bill requires the certificate to be given by a 881 medical officer of the authority. It is perfectly true that at the previous stage of the Bill I promised your Lordships, and in particular my noble friend Lord Auckland, that this matter would be looked at with the greatest care before the present stage of the Bill. I am entirely in agreement with my noble friend who said, in effect, that there is a case for the family doctor to have an important say in this matter. I certainly agree that where it is desirable a pupil's doctor should contact the medical officer, and it can be assumed that the medical officer would give weight to any such advice. I followed the noble Lord, Lord Slater, carefully in his speech, and I think it would be right for me to say to the noble Lord that it is the intention of the Department of Education and Science to issue a circular in the event of the passing of this Bill. The sort of points to which the noble Lord was drawing attention, and those to which many of your Lordships have drawn attention in this debate, about the necessity for consultation, the necessity for people other than the medical officer to have a say in a particular case, will be borne in mind in the drafting of that circular.
However, although the medical officer is, at the moment, in the Bill as the certificating authority, the health of pupils obviously often involves other people. First, there is the family doctor, who would, where necessary, we hope notify a school about a child's health. Then there are the education welfare officers, who I think it is fair to say spend the major part of their time liaising between home and school. Then there are the child care officers and their colleagues in the probation and other local authority services, all and any of whom, along with the parents, can bring to the notice of the medical officer the necessity to issue a certificate under this Bill. Therefore, in some circumstances people other than the medical officer will play a part in the procedure laid down in Clause 1 (1)(b), and evidence other than that of the school medical officer's own eyes and expertise will influence a particular decision.
The intention of these Amendments may be to relieve medical officers of an extra burden. Although the work of the school medical services is ever expanding I really do not believe that a substantial 882 extra burden will ensue from these provisions, partly because, of course, schoolchildren are under surveillance now. I must be honest with your Lordships and say that this is a decision which, after further advice, I have reached since the previous stage of the Bill. I am advised, however, that if eventually any local authority feels impelled to appoint more staff to fulfil their duty under the Bill, then the fact that there is no Money Resolution in this Bill would not make their action something which is unlawful. Although there is no difference of opinion on the value of advice from family doctors in this matter, we still believe that certificates should actually be issued by the medical officers of the authority; and in case the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, thinks I am simply being hard-headed, may I give two reasons? First, local education authorities will be responsible for the carrying out of the regulations which fall to be drafted under this Bill, including the expenditure for milk on health grounds, and it seems only right that the authority's own medical officer should be the person who issues the certificates which will exist by virtue of the Bill.
Secondly, it will be more probable that uniformity of practice will be achieved by standing by this stipulation. As your Lordships may know, and as I have said, the Department of Education intends to issue a circular. A good deal has been made in another place of the intention which has been enunciated by Ministers that there will not be specific instructions to medical officers. But their professional judgment will be, as I indicated, amplified by advice. Medical officers have long experience of identifying children who need special consideration. It will be for medical officers to judge, and to indicate on the certificate the period for which school milk is required. The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, mentioned what happens in the case of disagreement. I tried to make clear on Second Reading—and it was also made clear in another place—that ultimately the decision will be that of the medical officer. Frankly, we think that this is the fairest way in which this matter could be implemented and that more than by any other method this is the way in which uniformity of practice is likely to be effected.
883 If I may add just one more remark, I seriously wonder, along with my noble friend Lord Auckland, whether general practitioners would really welcome this duty, which obviously may involve liaising with welfare services and other doctors in regard to children who, in this context, are the responsibility of the medical officer. I hope that the Committee will understand that, although I am entirely in sympathy with the idea of these Amendments, and with a great deal of what has already been said in this debate, on purely practical grounds I cannot accept the Amendments. I hope that the noble Lord, in concluding the debate on this Amendment, will not take this as an indication, which it certainly is not supposed to be, that the family doctors, and indeed the other advisory services which are available to school children, should not have the closest consultation with the medical officers in certificating under this Bill.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
Before the noble Lord sits down, can he answer one small point? He referred to school welfare officers. Is there a school welfare officer in every primary school throughout Great Britain?
§ LORD BELSTEAD
No; that is too fast a ball, I am afraid. I am sorry, but I cannot help on that matter.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
The more I listen to the noble Lord opposite the more I am reaching the conclusion that this Bill is a lame duck which had better never been hatched. I think it a very great pity that the noble Lord has spoken as he has, endeavouring to give the impression that he is saying something new. Certainly what he said on Second Reading led us to expect that there really would be some further thinking and something new; whereas the noble Lord knows as well as I do—he probably knows better—that what he has said has been said in another place and that he has added nothing. If this Amendment created difficulties, then I wonder why it is that the Government themselves have not tabled Amendments. They are not incapable of drafting Amendments. They are in a better position to do it than any of us on this side.
If the noble Lord alleges that medical officers would be in difficulty if this 884 Amendment were carried, I want to put to him squarely that the Government will have brought this position about. The Government could have tabled an Amendment to meet the position. They have not done so. We are told in point of fact that they are going to issue a circular. I have very little confidence in circulars which are issued from the Department of Education and Science since the noble Lord's right honourable friend has been Secretary of State. She has issued too many circulars without consulting appropriate organisations. The noble Lord will know better than I do what they are, but there are two of very great importance. I think we need to make it perfectly clear that we have reason to doubt the present Secretary of State for Education and Science when it comes to issuing circulars. I should like to know with whom she is going to consult. Did the Government consult local authority associations before they decided to draft this Bill? Did they at any point consult with the professional associations? I rather think the answer is in the negative. One wonders exactly what they have in mind by way of consultation before they issue the circular, and whether they will in fact consult the medical officers of London, who were quoted by my noble friend Lady Summerskill.
It is no use the Government pretending that the difficulties to which we are drawing attention can be easily overcome by administrative action. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that throughout the country there is resentment at what is being done. I repeat what I said on an earlier Amendment: people are not proud of poverty. Have the Government stopped to think what is to happen to the little child to whom some social worker draws attention as needing free milk? Is that little child to be taken from the classroom for a special examination by the school medical officer? Because what we are really arriving at is this situation, that the medical test is going to take the place of the means test. If it is not that, the medical test is going to be a criticism of parental inadequacy.
I do not think that the Government have seriously thought out the situation they are going to create. We are, it is true, taking a good deal of time. I had not thought that so many members of the 885 Committee would have been as interested as they are, but I am delighted. But what we are discussing is a matter of vital importance. We are discussing the lives of little children, and the noble Lord is suggesting that the school medical officer can cope with all the administrative work that is involved in issuing certificates. I think it is time that the Government realised that the school medical officers already have too much to do; that we are not able to create in considerable numbers the men and women of the calibre we should like to have. We ought to bring in the general practitioners as partners in this business. If a general practitioner certifies that a child is in need of milk—and preventive milk, at that—in many cases I should have thought that his word was quite sufficient. If there are difficulties in the Bill, they are of the Government's own making and they merely indicate that this is a thoroughly badly thought out Bill.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 1, line 25, leave out from (" them ") to end of line 3 on page 2.
The noble Lord said: This Amendment is designed to give local authorities what so many of them have asked for. The Association of Education Committees, at their annual general meeting, by an over-whelming majority passed the following resolution:
That this annual general meeting of the Association of Education Committees instructs the Executive Committee to pursue vigorously with Her Majesty's Government the terms of the Education (Milk) Bill with a view to such amendment as will enable local education authorities to make appropriate provision of free milk after considering the needs of their school children of junior school age.
I would ask the Committee to consider what Sir William Alexander wrote on May 21 in the Journal of the Association of Education Committees:
There is quite a major reaction against the policy of no free milk for primary school children over the age of seven. Indeed, this reaction is so strong that several local authorities have threatened to go on providing milk and bearing the charge on the rates.
Sir William Alexander also said:
There are undoubtedly areas at the present time where there is a fairly high level of unemployment and where it may well be
that children go to school without having had anything like an adequate breakfast. There are many therefore who feel that the provision of milk for these children is a major factor in maintaining their health and indeed in enabling them to carry the load of school work successfully. It seems reasonable to argue therefore that if the Government are adamant in not being prepared to pay they should at least leave a local education authority free to make such a decision at its own expense.
Sir William Alexander followed up that statement on June 18 by saying that, while agreeing that the Government might have a right to decide that they were not prepared to provide monies for any given purpose,
surely it is no less right for the ratepayers in the area of the local education authority, through their elected representatives on that authority, to be able to decide that they will spend their money on such a provision if they think it desirable to do so.
In Hounslow, where a penny rate produces £178,000, the cost of providing free milk for junior schoolchildren has been estimated at £27,000 a year—less than 15 per cent. of a penny rate. This is not a large sum.
§ Then there is the Association of Municipal Corporations. I would remind the Committee of the powerful plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, on Second Reading. He expressed the hope that the Government would be willing to consider some sort of Amendment to give local authorities the power which this Amendment seeks to confer. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, expressed the view of the Association of Municipal Corporations which can be summarised as follows. Where a local education authority wishes to continue the supply of free milk for all pupils in primary schools and is prepared itself to pay for the milk without Government aid, it ought to have the power to do so. And why not?
I raised a further point on Second Reading when I referred to difficulties which may arise when, because of reductions in the amount of milk consumed, suppliers will be discouraged. Dr. Lincoln Ralphs, Chief Education Officer of Norfolk, pointed out that in rural areas the Bill might not produce an economy because some school units were so small that suppliers would not contract to supply milk unless everyone was provided with it. I was also interested, and I trust the Committee will be interested,
in the following extracts from correspondence from the Deputy Clerk of Perthshire to Perthshire Members of Parliament. He wrote:
We are still in the process of taking in tenders for the supply of milk in the next session but already the Press coverage given to the Bill seems to have persuaded more suppliers than even before that it is simply not worth their while to take milk to some outlying schools. For example, the comparatively large firm which has supplied all the schools in the central districts of the county during the past session have indicated that they will not be tendering for the next session on the ground that it is not worth their while financially if the milk is to be restricted only to pupils up to the age of seven.
§ I could go on quoting, but when we were discussing the last Amendment the noble Lord asked whether we had consulted the various associations and what backing we had. I hope that he will be satisfied in this connection by the quotations that I have given, that so far as the Association of Education Committees is concerned and so far as the Association of Municipal Corporations is concerned, I have fairly represented to the Committee what their views are. With regard to the point that I raised on Second Reading, I think that the noble Lord then said that it was a new point. He will take it from the two quotations that I have given that it is a valid point and one that the Government ought to face. I shall be interested to hear what he has to say on the matter. I beg to move.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
May I answer the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, in two parts? The first is the discretion that would be given by these Amendments, which would be to provide more milk for those already receiving it free, and to provide supplies of free milk for all primary schools and for all secondary schools. This wide discretion is a reversal not only of this Government's policy—hence these Amendments—but also of the previous Government's policy, which withdrew milk specifically from secondary schools. The first point I want to put to the noble Lord is that there are many noble Lords—and my noble friend Lord Milverton, was one of them—who on Second Reading aked why the expense of providing milk at the discretion of the local authority could not be totally rate-borne. Why could this not 888 be done? Why was this not self-evidently just?
The factor which makes for an almost insurmountable difficulty here is the equalisation factor in the resources element of rate support grant. This is the part of the rate support grant policy of positive discrimination. What I am asking your Lordships clearly to understand is that if some authorities decided to avail themselves of the power in these Amendments to give free school milk to a wide range of pupils some authorities would become eligible for a larger share of the resources element grant at the expense of other authorities, and there would thus be no question of milk expenditure under these Amendments being totally rate borne. I want to make quite sure that I am not on record as saying that I totally disapprove of the policy of positive discrimination—the equalisation factor in the resources element of rate support grant. This is something which brings help to hard pressed areas. I am saying that because of this factor it would not be possible to do what so many noble Lords think would be a good thing and seems so self-evidently right until one looks at it more closely, namely, to allow local authorities to provide free milk totally on the rates.
May I turn to the second part of my reply to the noble Lord, which is the question of the penny rate to which he devoted most of his remarks. This Bill makes no alteration whatever to the powers a local authority has to devote the product of a penny rate to the benefit of people within the area of the authority. After the 1968 Milk Act withdrawing milk from secondary schools, authorities could have considered the financing of free milk in secondary schools from the product of a penny rate in just the same way as they could decide so to do now if this Bill passes into law. Your Lordships will be familiar with the power by which local authorities may devote the product of a penny rate to objectives for which they do not have a statutory duty. This of course excludes authorities which are local education authorities from devoting a penny rate to school milk.
The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, posed the question, why could we not change the law completely so that local 889 education authorities could do this, or, if we do not change the law, that local authorities which are not local education authorities finance free milk from the product of a penny rate? To this I would say first that any authority wishing to do so must decide with legal advice as to whether in principle under the penny rate provisions of Section 6 of the Local Government Act 1963 and its Scottish counterpart, Section 339 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947, this can be done. Having decided the principle with its legal advisers, the local authority would then have to decide whether it would be practicable. For instance, a local authority which is not a local education authority and uses these penny rate powers in respect of school milk would have no access as of right to the schools except at the invitation of the local authority concerned. An authority which is not an education authority would need to consider to what extent it would be necessary to ensure that the milk which the authority was financing actually went down the throats of the pupils within its area. When you think of children going across the boundaries of different areas of local authorities, this would not be hairsplitting but would be an important and relevant point. At the same time, the local education authority concerned would need to consider whether this process financed by another authority in fact involved the local education authority in any expense, and if it did whether such expense would be ultra vires under this Bill.
Finally, it goes without saying that the district auditor would have to be satisfied that such expenditure had been lawfully incurred. I am putting these points forward in a helpful spirit. I know that it is a destructive spirit, but I am trying to be helpful. These considerations have come to us at the Department and I thought it might be useful to your Lordships if I passed them on to the House. The factors which I have put before your Lordships would need to be considered by local authorities concerned with the financing of school milk from the product of a penny rate. But this consideration would not be anything new. As I have said, the Bill in no way alters the power of authorities to spend a penny rate—a twopenny rate in Scotland—and in no way changes the consideration which 890 local authorities have to give to their powers to do this.
However, your Lordships, and particularly my noble friend Lord Milverton, expressed the view on Second Reading that local authorities should have the power without question to provide free milk on the rates. I must point out that, quite apart from the technical difficulty I referred to at the start of my speech, the Government have responsibility for overall public expenditure. Local authority expenditure is just as much public spending as is central Government expenditure, and while the Government subscribe entirely to the principle of local autonomy we made it clear, as I pointed out on Second Reading, in the Department of the Environment Circular 2/70 that increased local authority autonomy cannot be looked at apart from the Government's responsibility for the total level and main trends of expenditure. I think it fair to repeat the questions which I put to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, on Second Reading. Why did the previous Government not do something about devoting the product of a penny rate for a subsidy for secondary school milk? Why did the previous Government not do something about this when the price of school meals began to rise? It might have been a good thing to subsidise them. I am not going to criticise the noble Lord. The answer is that there was then a similar overall responsibility for the level of public spending. For exactly the same reason we have to resist these Amendments.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
Let me answer the noble Lord straight away. The previous Government did not propose depriving children aged between seven and eleven of milk, a point which apparently has not yet sunk in. That is why they did not do anything on the lines the noble Lord has suggested and they did not have official opposition to the withdrawing of free milk from secondary schools. I wish that the then official Opposition had challenged the position. They might then have been seen doing their duty more effectively, we might have been saved the embarrassment and they might have been saved the embarrassment of this Bill. The noble Lord cannot have it both ways and the Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim that they are giving local authorities 891 greater autonomy when they do not do anything that the authorities want them to do. If they are going to give the authorities greater freedom they have to give them power to do something which is different from their neighbours if they so want.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
May I ask a question of the noble Lord? Is he suggesting that we are in some way changing the rules about the product of a penny rate and in some way withdrawing local authorities' freedom in that respect?
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
I was coming to that point because I think it important, but I want to underline what I have been saying. The Government should not talk about giving local authorities greater freedom when they are not giving them greater freedom. They are denying the freedom for which they ask. The local authorities are asking for freedom to spend their ratepayers' money, ratepayers to whom they are responsible. All they are asking for is that if they ore education authorities they should have exactly the same right as district authorities which are not educa-
§ Resolved in the, negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.892
§ tion authorities. I hope that what is being asked for is clear. It is the associations that are asking for this. I cannot understand why the Government are so blind as not to see that this is a genuine request for parity in deciding how the product of a penny rate should be spent if they think that it conforms with the wishes of the people they represent. I do not think that is asking very much. I am surprised that the Government are being so adamant in their attitude to any suggestion that this Bill should be improved, because the more we discuss this Bill the more it becomes clear that it is a thoroughly bad Bill. It is alleged by us and by many outside the Labour movement that this Bill will do damage to children. At the very least, that risk is being run. Why run risks when it is unnecessary for such a paltry amount, which would not be missed by people in receipt of over £80 per week?
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 59.891
|Beswick, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hanworth, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Brockway, L.||Henderson, L.||Seear, Bs.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hoy, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Champion, L.||Hylton, L.||Slater, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Jacques, L.||Somers, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Janner, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Lindgren, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Foot, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Nunburnholme, L.||Wade, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Phillips, Bs.[Teller.]||White, Bs.|
|Aberdare, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Monck, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Eccles, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Ferrers, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Fortescue, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Penrhyn, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Gowrie, E.||St. Helens, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Gray, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Grenfell, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Gridley, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Carrington, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Colgrain, L.||Hailes, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Sudeley, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Hawke, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Ilford, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Latymer, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Lyell, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Digby, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Wolverton, L.|
§ 7.48 p.m.
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 2, line 17, leave out (" 1971 ") and insert (" 1975 ").
§ The noble Lord said: I shall be quite brief. I appreciate that a number of noble Lords are waiting to take part in the resumed Committee stage on the Immigration Bill. If we do not know how to look after our own children, I do not know how we can expect other people to look after theirs. This Amendment gives the Committee an opportunity to point out to the Government that they have no mandate for this Bill and that it would be a very good thing to postpone its operation until after the next General Election, when there would be a good chance that it would never come into being. That would be welcomed by a great many people. I beg to move.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
In company with the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, I realise that your Lordships would like to pass on to the next Committee stage. I think that we have a mandate for this Bill, a mandate to this extent: that the Conservative Party for years in Opposition drew attention to the need to concentrate on priorities in education. This was the general philosophy of the White Paper New Policies for Public Spending. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, that I am extremely surprised that there should be anything between us on this point. Possibly when Parties change from Government to Opposition, the language of priorities ceases to be the language of his Party; I do not know. There is this difference between us, and I must say that I am surprised.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The noble Lord has it slightly wrong. We do not produce our policy to the country just at General Elections; we do it over a period of years. What I said to the Committee was that for many years in Opposition the Conservative Party made their position perfectly clear on this matter.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
I do not think any of us on this side, and few on that side, need instructing about an order of priorities. As I understand it, Nye Bevan put it—and I accepted it when he said it—that"socialism is the religion of priorities ". It is a strange priority that takes one-third of a pint of milk from children who may be placed at risk. I shall not press this Amendment to a Division, but certainly I will give my noble friends on this side an opportunity at least to express with their voices how they feel.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Provision of milk in Scotland]:
§ 7.52 p.m.
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 2, line 25, leave out (" seven ") and insert (" eleven ").
§ The noble Lord said: I shall be brief on this Amendment, too. Clause 2 deals with the position in Scotland, and the same general arguments apply as to England and Wales. I do not wish to repeat them all, but I want to make it clear that, even though the Government would not accept the Amendment to increase the age to eleven under Clause 1(1), I would give them another chance to treat the children of Scotland a little more liberally than they seem disposed to treat children of England and Wales. Certainly their action would not be resented in Scotland. If my crystal glass is giving me the right message, I shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, has to say why children in Scotland should not be treated more liberally than the children of England, particularly having regard to the fact that local authorities there can spend the product of a 2p rate, compared with only 1p in England and Wales.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
I have not joined in the debates on this Bill before because I have always felt that one must declare a vested interest, and here I have to declare a vested interest from several points of view. First of all, I am a farmer, and naturally one of the things a farmer tries to do is to sell milk. But I am also a county councillor of a county in Scotland, and a ratepayer, and I should 895 like to say a few words from these angles. I can assure the Committee that when the last Government reduced to eleven the age of children receiving milk I spoke to over 100 people about this, and only five of them objected. I think that decision of the last Government was absolutely correct. I want to go a little further on behalf of the many ratepayers in Scotland. Under our rates arrangements a local authority has no capital; it has to borrow money for capital expenditure, sometimes at high rates of interest. I have never known anybody object to money being spent on education, because this is something that some parents of children cannot afford. But people do feel that it is up to the parents to look after their own children and nay for their food and clothing. I have met many people in Scotland who are quite happy to pay for education, but are not willing to pay for food, and feel that it should be charged at a reasonably economic rate.
The important thing in the case of milk is that it is only eligible from a rate support grant from the Government; it is not 100 per cent. free. Nothing is free in this world, anyway. I feel that it is the parent's responsibility. But we are providing for children up to the age of seven. These small children probably would not be able to handle money anyway, and there would be complications. I do not want to lengthen this debate, but I feel that the Government's decision is absolutely correct. After that age, if the children want the milk, they can buy it. This, I can honestly say, is very much the opinion of the average ratepayer in Scotland.
More and more money out of the rates is going towards the cost of education, but this nobody minds. Nobody minds paying towards the cost of clothes for children whose parents cannot afford them. A district council may often arrange for shoes, clothes, and the lot, for children of big families. But I feel that the extra family allowance that the present Government have made is doing a lot of good. If only we could educate people to take a little more interest in their children and not so much in bingo, I think we should be going a long way in the right direction.
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
As a Scottish ratepayer, and the father 896 of a child who until quite recently was at a Scottish village school, and who is at present sitting below the Bar in your Lordships' House, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to accept this Amendment. I am sorry that he did not accept the other Amendment. As a supporter of Her Majesty's Government, I think that this is a very mean and pettifogging Bill. It might go quite a way to make the Government's case a little better if they accepted this Amendment relating to Scotland, which has a higher rate of unemployment than there is in England; and it has a lot of poverty, or near poverty, which some of us who live in Scotland have seen in Glasgow, in the Clydeside area and in Lanarkshire. It is no good saying that you are going to give these children money with which to buy milk, because they will not buy milk, but will buy sweets in the local sweetie shop. As I have said, I hope that my noble friend will accept this Amendment.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Balfour for his words of support for the Government. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, and noble Lords opposite that what my noble friend Lord Belstead said applies completely to Scotland. We consider that the benefits we are giving will more than offset any possible extra expenditure of 2p per school day which might be necessary. I refuse to believe that if Scottish parents think their children need milk they will begrudge them this 2p per day. And there is no need, as my noble friend Lord Belhaven seems to think, to give little Willie his two new pennies for him to"blow"on sweets. It is quite possible for the bill to be paid at school by the parents, weekly or monthly as the local authority may decide. That is quite a possible thing and is allowed for in this Bill. There is one small point: if we had passed Amendment No. 1 earlier to-day it would have completely nullified this Bill and put the clock back to where it was in the past. If, however, we were to accept this Amendment—I do not know whether noble Lords are aware of this—it would not have that effect, because the education system in Scotland, at the noble Lord knows, is slightly different from the English system. Scottish pupils in their last year of primary 897 education get free milk. If this Amendment were passed, it would have the effect that they would not get it; so this would be putting the clock further back than the noble Lord intended. However, as the evening is getting on and the arguments are exactly the same, it would be churlish of me to go on speaking.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
No, the argument is not exactly the same. It changes, and not for the better. The noble Lord says that so far as Scotland is concerned we can put it on the bill once a week or once a month. We could put it in this Bill and ensure that children got milk. If there is any defect in the Amendment the Government have draftsmen at their disposal and they could have put down an Amendment to the Amendment or they could have put down an Amendment themselves. I appreciate that throughout most of the Second Reading and during this afternoon the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, has been in attendance and I have personally appreciated the interest he has obviously taken in our arguments. However, I feel that his remarks were completely answered by what his noble friend Lord Belhaven had to say. He called it a pettifogging Bill. It is a pettifogging Bill. As regards what the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, said, about not having found anyone in Scotland who was criticising this Bill may I say that in a later Amendment there will be an opportunity to look at that point a little more closely. Again I wish to say that I shall not press this matter to a Division, but I should like to have the opinion of my noble friends recorded.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 8.4 p.m.
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 2, line 28, at end insert (" a qualified medical practitioner or ").
§ The noble Lord said: The argument here is exactly as for Clause 1. I beg to move this Amendment formally and shall not speak further on the matter.
We on this side of the Committee have lost all our Amendments, sometimes by a small amount and sometimes by a large amount. I do not think there is much point in pressing this point much further but I should like to reiterate my remarks 898 to the effect that local school medical officers of health should certify that the whole class of children between seven and eleven should receive free milk.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
I do not think I ought to go on too long on this point. The arguments are the same. The Scottish authorities would not want to issue milk, which would be a financial obligation on them, on a private doctor's recommendation. The private doctor can draw the attention of school medical officers to cases, where he thinks it necessary that milk should he provided, and any parent could have this done if he thought it was needed. The arguments are exactly the same, and I think that there the case must rest.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
I should like to make one or two points on this Amendment, and I hope I shall redeem the promise I gave just now to touch upon the situation in Scotland. In Scotland there are 49,000 male workers aged 21 who earn less than £15 gross a week. In Glasgow there is a very, very special position. I think I am right in saying that in Glasgow no fewer than one in ten of the male workers are unemployed; and the prospect is no brighter—indeed, it is a great deal bleaker—as a result of the Government's decision with regard to the Upper Clyde shipyards.
On Second Reading I referred to some correspondence and Press reports about the position in Glasgow, when it was reported that a deputation had waited on the then Under-Secretary for Health and Education at the Scottish Office. I do not know whether the resignation of the right honourable gentleman lets the Government off the hook on this matter. Since, in his letter of resignation, there was no reference to education, and since there has been no allegation that he misbehaved himself, I would appreciate it if the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, can clear up what appears to have been the impression received by the deputation when they waited upon the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education at the Scottish Office. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, knows the point, because I raised it on Second Reading.
Newspaper reports made it clear that the deputation left the meeting satisfied that the medical officer had discretion to 899 issue certificates on preventive grounds. I think this cannot be too clearly spelt out. The Leader of the deputation, Dr. Docherty, said on leaving the meeting with the Under-Secretary that it would mean that in complete districts in Glasgow most children would be able to receive milk. This being the case—and I am asking for confirmation—it would seem that the Amendment before the Committee would be of great administrative help. It would save the examination of every child, save a lot of book work and avoid undesirable discrimination. Also, we should do well again to remember, as I said earlier, that it is only one-third of a pint of milk a day.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I will just reply to the noble Lord on his last point. I replied to it on Second Reading, and I was looking for a reference, but I am afraid that I cannot find it immediately. The burden of my reply to him now on behalf of my noble friend and myself is that the school medical officer's decision will be final. There will be no question of Government or anybody else stepping in and rescinding decisions of school medical officers.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
May I say that I raised the point because there is still misunderstanding in Glasgow? I was in fact asked to raise it this afternoon, because what the noble Lord said on Second Reading was not sufficient.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 3, line 13, leave out (" 1971 ") and insert (" 1975 ").
§ The noble Lord said: I think it is quite appropriate that in regard to this Amendment I should say that we think the operation of this Bill so far as Scotland is concerned, as well as England and Wales, should be held back until 1975, when we shall have had another General Election which one hopes will sweep this Government from office and we shall have a more humane and understanding Government in office.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
I do not think that noble Lords opposite 900 will expect the Government to accept this Amendment. As my noble friend Lord Belstead has made amply clear, our intention is that by restructuring the general outlook many people at the bottom will be better off. This is small in itself, but it will bear fruits in the long run. With regard to the point about August 1, 1971, we had anticipated that the Bill would have been law by now, and I am advised that the effect in Scotland will be just the same as in England. It will be operated in Scotland, of course, whether there are children to drink milk or not. Therefore it cannot do any harm having it as it is. It is not retrospective legislation in any way. With those words I will leave that.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.