HL Deb 04 August 1971 vol 323 cc1177-99

3.50 p.m.

Debate resumed on Amendment No. 1.


My Lords, may I now return to what we were discussing before the Statement was made? It is difficult on an Amendment of this kind in such a Bill not to make a Second Reading speech. I shall avoid it so far as I can, and I will not speak for more than two minutes. I am really concerned about what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said with regard to priorities. This is something on which I agree with one of my noble friends: this is a real priority. If I may say so, without indulging too much in"sob stuff ", my mind goes back to my time as a constituency Member of Parliament with an industrial constituency in Lancashire. I go back to 1945, when I was first elected for that constituency. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, had done in 1940, and what had been done in 1944 by reason of the Education Act, in that constituency malnutrition was rife. I recall the kids in the poorer streets of the City of Salford; I remember their malnutrition and their rickets. I believe that the fact that they were able to have free milk in their schools has established to-day an altogether different range and breed of children; those children have benefited by the free milk that they were given in those years.

If that milk is taken away from many families to-day—and I agree some parents are not too careful about seeing that their children get the right foods—I am fearful of a deterioration in the health of the children, particularly in industrial towns like Salford. It is not my constituency any more, but I am still concerned about it. I know, for example, that it has the highest bronchitis incidence in the country to-day. With all these conditions prevailing, I want to see the children of such towns enjoying to the full what this country can give them. I believe that free milk in the schools, at least up to secondary school age, would be a tremendous asset to to-day's children.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment, to say a word or two about the question of priorities. I agree with those noble Lords who have said that you cannot really compare the building of new schools with the provision of free milk. But supposing you do: you are saying to these children who are going to be deprived of their milk,"You cannot have your milk because we are building new schools ". We are not building them for the benefit of these children; these particular children will get neither milk nor new schools. It is going to take a good many years, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, may say, before the country is provided with the new schools we need. In the meantime, generations of children will be without their free milk and also without the new schools.

On the question of priority itself, I say quite frankly that I would much rather that children are provided with milk than with new schools. They are both desirable and they are both essential, but to set one off against the other seems to me a quite irrelevant comparison. After all, the health of the children and their ability to take advantage of the education we provide is at stake. I hope the Government will think again about this Amendment.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may be allowed to break in for a moment, not to impose anything I want to say on your Lordships, but because there are two or three matters of fact which I should put before your Lordships which at the moment are possibly not entirely taken by the House. It is, I think, the duty of the Government to reply to this debate on the importance of this measure, because it is quite clear from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, that this Amendment and the Amendments with which it is grouped would completely change the objectives of the Bill. On October 27 last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introducing the White Paper, New Policies for Public Spending, said that it set out to tackle ever-rising Government expenditure which for each one of us could only lead down a one way path of ever higher taxation. I think it is fair to say that the White Paper also determined to spend more on priorities which demand attention, and at the same time the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear the Government's duty to see that substantial help goes as of right to anyone who needs it. This Bill contributes £9 million to the totality of the Government savings; it forms, however, a small, but, I submit, necessary item in the planned reductions in public spending which, so far as I know, are unparalleled, at any rate since the war, and which I know were only achieved after the most careful scrutiny possible.

Many of your Lordships have said that you cannot set one item of expenditure off against another, and I listened with the closest attention to my noble friend Lord Brooke as he, if I may say so with respect, quite rightly made the point that this is part of a Government exercise to do things which I have just again tried to outline to your Lordships. But within that Government exercise there are various items. This Bill is one. If I may say so with the greatest respect, certain of your Lordships have benefited, or if I may put it this way, organisations with which your Lordships, entirely in voluntary capacities and out of the kindness of your hearts and your public duty, are associated with, have benefited from this exercise; some of your Lordships in that position have, on the Division on the first Amendment in the Committee stage, seen fit to divide against this.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may—



My Lords, I wish the noble Lord would explain what he is talking about.


My Lords, the sort of thing I am referring to, which is part of the whole exercise, is that the Government have managed to find more money, for instance, for schools; and when £4 million was found a few months ago for primary schools my right honourable friend did her very best to devote more of that money to aided schools. I am simply asking, not only right reverend Prelates but others of your Lordships in this House, to look at this in its totality; not to accept the good parts out of the Government strategy and yet always to pick out the bad parts and divide against them.

The decision to introduce the provision of free milk for children up to the end of the summer term following their seventh birthday was also taken as part of the totality of the strategy after careful consideration, and we knew that when the previous Government had withdrawn secondary school milk the Minister at that time, Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker, on February 26, 1968, in the House of Commons (cols. 1098/9) had said this—and I only repeat this because of the words of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy: Now I should like to deal with the question of the nutritional value of milk in secondary schools. We sought advice about it, of course. This is not something which we just settled without thought. Advice was sought by the permanent head of my Department from my Chief Medical Officer, who consulted the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy. Broadly speaking, the essence of the report was that present evidence does not allow us to say whether the abolition of free school milk would affect health. Present evidence does not allow a conclusion to be drawn. And then the right honourable gentleman added these words: That advice referred to milk in all schools, but we did not rely on that alone since it referred to all schools. Our advice one year ago was exactly the same as that advice which I have now recalled to your Lordships' attention.


It was damned bad advice.


It is, therefore, a fact that neither the last Government nor this Government have received advice from the Medical Committee, which is there to give such advice, that the withdrawal of milk would be harmful to secondary or primary pupils. Some of your Lordships feel that the advice is misconceived. The Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy is comprised of people who are not only well known in their fields but who are independent nutritionists. I am sure that your Lordships would agree that this Committee can be relied on, because it is independent, not to hesitate to give advice when it finds the need to do so.

For their part, the Government are demonstrating their concern for the health of children by the network of checks (to which I referred in detail in Committee) in a variety of areas; with a special national food survey scrutinising nutrition in the home. We are not waiting to see the effects of these checks, as has been suggested by some of your Lordships, but already surveys are in action in Kent and Birmingham. The Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy, coupled with its advice the setting up of a huge nation-wide survey (which is something entirely new), taking in various aspects of child health, and aiming to ensure that deficiencies in nutrition, for whatever reason, will be discovered while they are still mild and reversible.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord has finished the point lie was making about 1968. The House will know that we pursued and dealt with this point in Committee, and the noble Lord will be well aware of the fact that the version he has given is not accepted, and it was not accepted in the other place in Committee. He will be well aware of what Mr. Edward Short had to say; he will be well aware of what Miss Joan Lestor had to say; he will be well aware of the fact that in Committee I stated what I felt about it. I am not sure that I can remember the number of the column, but I think it was something like col. 104 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I do not withdraw one word of what I have said on this matter. I want to make it quite clear that I accept fully what people said in the other place from our side, that they were satisfied that it was safe to withdraw milk from secondary schools. I regret the decision. I have said a number of times that I hope that my side has learned the lesson, and I hope that it will never make the mistake again of giving a hostage to fortune in the way it did by cutting milk to secondary school children.



I think I am perfectly in order. They had advice that it would be unsafe to withdraw milk from primary schools.


My Lords, quite simply, the reply to the noble Lord is that the honourable lady, Miss Lestor, was not a Member of the Government at that time; the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, was not a Member of the Government at that time. The right honourable gentleman, Mr. Edward Short, did query this decision, and he was offered the normal courtesies of seeing the papers in the Cabinet Office. Unless the noble Lord is telling me I should be aware, I am not aware that the right honourable gentleman has availed himself of that facility.

This Amendment seeks to draw a dividing line. In essence, however, the Bill is doing the same thing, because it retains the right to free milk for pupils up to the age of twelve on medical grounds. This, I put to your Lordships, is an important provision which your Lordships have not altered in Committee, just as the new power to sell milk is a provision which remains unchanged in the Bill. There is nothing between us on the desirability of milk as a food, although your Lordships will see that advice cannot be given as to exactly when it is essential and exactly when it is not. I hope your Lordships will accept those words which I uttered before the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, spoke.

What we on this side of the House believe is that, rather than give a specific milk subsidy for all children over the age of seven and a half years old, children who can pay will go on drinking milk, and next term a wide range of parents will be in a far stronger position through substantial increases in rights to security benefits—rights which I will not itemise because my noble friend Lord Brooke did so about a quarter of an hour ago. I would ask my noble friends this question: Do you prefer an indiscriminate subsidy to those who need and to those who do not, putting entirely in jeopardy the general strategy of the Government of last October. Or a safety age limit, with a medical safeguard, a power of sale, and an ability to purchase through improved social security rights? I ask noble Lords opposite: where is the point of principle which causes the introduction of what, in fact, is a wrecking Amendment on Third Reading after this question has been exhaustively debated, not only through another place but in this House, in Committee, on a very similar Amendment? This is technically a completely defective Amendment in that it will exclude some children at nearly fourteen and others at the age of nine, for reasons which have remained totally unexplained in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, in introducing this Amendment. It is also contrary to the policy of noble Lords opposite when in Government, in reintroducing milk for secondary schools.

I ask your Lordships to please look at Hansard for February 26, 1968. At col. 1098 the then Minister referred to the withdrawal of secondary school milk as a"shift in resources ". As reported in the House of Commons Hansard for November 4, 1968, the then Minister described the withdrawal of free meals from fourth and subsequent children of all ages as,"resources which could be more wisely applied." In Hansard of November 17, 1968, the same Minister justified a rise in school meal prices by expenditure needed in other areas of the education service. If words have a meaning, those statements are identical with the Government's intention today.

If your Lordships had the opportunity to listen to local authorities, to listen to teachers and parents asking for real improvement in the old schools of this country, I assure you you would not hesitate; you would choose to implement a general national policy which includes the greatest campaign to bring our old schools up to date which this country has ever seen. It is a campaign remarkable for the four-year span of money promised, which my right honourable friend has already been able to announce. Even though part of that policy includes the restriction of a specific subsidy on milk, provided that the Government safeguards any risk to health, you would choose this, I suggest, provided that the Government make supplies available, and that the Government give real financial help where it is needed. I am asking your Lordships this afternoon to recognise the small but fundamental position that this Bill occupies in the Government plans for the future; to acknowledge the genuine safeguards which accompany it, and to agree now to the passage of the Bill.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I should like to ask him one question. I gathered at one point in his speech that the free supply of milk was no longer regarded as essential, either in secondary or in primary schools. Surely he cannot have meant that to apply to primary schools as well as secondary schools, otherwise why have the supply of milk up to the age of seven?


My Lords, the noble Lord's ears have not deceived him; but his conclusion is totally wrong.


My Lords, I apologise for intervening because I know that the noble Lord is very capable and very fair, but I think the noble Lord will live to rue some of his remarks today. I am not concerned a tinker's cuss with what any other Government did. If they did what is alleged (and I was in on some of it) it was wrong. I am concerned with what we have to do to-day. No Government can justify their actions by this old fashioned method of saying, "This is what a Liberal Government did" or,"what a Labour Government did ". In the name of Heaven, what is happening to our civilisation? All we seem to be concerned with are statistics and things. I am concerned with the dignity of human beings. I have said before that if you withhold milk from children when they are young, you cannot make it up to them by stuffing them with cream when they are teenagers, or men and women. It is too late.

I am surprised at the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. He has a first-class logical brain and he knows in his heart that you cannot compare these priorities of buildings and children. As somebody who has practised in every avenue of teaching, from the old-fashioned elementary school to adult extramural university classes, I know what a good teacher can do in any kind of building if he has the ability and if the children have the health to take it. That does not mean that we do not want buildings, but the Government should not say that £9 million is going to be put into bricks and mortar when the children of to-day are being neglected. I am proud of what the Conservative and Labour Governments did, and I am also proud of what Lord Boyd-Orr did in the field of nutrition. I am not concerned with the results of so-called nutritional experts, because they contradict each other from time to time, as do economists, to suit the current movements. I beg both sides of the House to-day to send this Bill back to another place, so that it can be looked at. We are supposed to be going into the Common Market and we shall be going in as one of the countries with the worst social services for its children.

What is the matter with this country? Why is it trying to save £9 million? I do not want to make a Second Reading speech, but I will tell this House where to find a hundred times more than that if the Government are worried. They gave out £100 million in tax in their last Budget. If they want to get this money hack, why not put a quarter per cent. speculation tax on the rising prices of houses and land, and put that money into school milk? Incidentally, that would also help our hill farmers to stand up to the impact of the Common Market when we enter it. I ask the Government to think of human beings, rather than of the arid figure of £9 million on a balance sheet.


My Lords, what noble Lords opposite are really doing is libelling every parent in this country. What they are saying is that no parent in this country is prepared to spend under two shillings a week—the price of eight cigarettes—to provide milk for his children between seven and eleven years of age. My noble friend Lord Belstead has pointed out that poor families are adequately safeguarded, but several noble Lords opposite have harked back to 1944. We are not in 1944. The average income of people in this country has now trebled, including that of unemployed people. This is the most nonsensical debate that I have ever heard. It is a complete storm in a teacup. It is completely emotional and it is completely impractical.


My Lords—

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I have already risen six times. I am sorry that three of us cannot speak at the same time, because a chorus of that kind might influence the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite. But the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, should read what his noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone said a few years ago. He said that one of the main reasons for the remarkable improvement in children's health in recent years has been the access of children to reasonable supplies of fresh liquid milk. He was referring to the wholesale distribution of school milk to practically every child in the country. I listened hopefully to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, when he gave his interim reply to this debate, and I was deeply disappointed. I came to the conclusion that he really is beyond redemption. It is quite clear to me that he has never been a mother. When he spoke of medical authority, he failed to differentiate between the child of eleven, who has some good bones and muscles in his body, and the child of seven, whose bones and muscles are going through a very important growing stage.

Then the noble Lord said that the opinion of the local authorities should be taken into account. Let us take into account the opinions of two of the most important local authority organisations in the country. The first is the Association of Municipal Corporations, who have said that they want the right to give these children the milk. The second is the Association of Education Committees, and they, too, have said that they want the right to give these children the milk. The noble Lord may on occasions quote the local authorities when it suits his book to do so, and on the simple, straightforward question that is now before us of whether children of seven to eleven should have milk, he should also quote what the authorities say. I have not been at all influenced by all the quibbles that we have had from the noble Lord. They were quibbles. The straight issue is: are we going to give milk to children of seven to eleven or are we going to take it away from them?

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said that this is a question of priorities, as of course it is. Let us look at a few of those priorities. Only a few weeks ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he had saved £29 million on school meals, and we now hear that the Government are saving £9 million on school milk. The total of that is £38 million, which is precisely the sum that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put into the pockets of the surtax payers by his recent Budgets. The Chancellor has been openly boasting on the wireless and in the Press that he has reduced taxation by £1,000 million. We are not asking for £1,000 million, nor for £900 million. We are asking for £9 million, which is the cost of giving these children the milk to which they are really entitled—that is, if we take an adult view of our responsibilities as citizens. Not only did the Chancellor say that he was giving away £1,000 million. A week or two ago he went even further and reduced the purchase tax on mink coats, on expensive jewellery and on other luxuries of that kind. Goodness gracious! my Lords, let us, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said, get our priorities right. And if we get our priorities right, should we not say that little schoolchildren come before the ladies in Park Lane, with their mink coats and their expensive jewellery? I do not want to carry on this debate very much longer.


Hear, hear!


It is uncomfortable for noble Lords opposite. We have had one assurance from the noble Lord that some monitoring will take place to see whether or not the children are suffering. That is right. But have the medical evidence before you make a cut in the milk. Do not cut the milk and then see whether some of the youngsters suffer.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will want to be fair. That is precisely contrary to what I said.


All right, my Lords. The noble Lord is setting up a monitoring system.


No, my Lords. It is being set up by an independent body.


There is another quibble, my Lords. A monitoring system is being set up to examine the children and ascertain whether or not they suffer as a result of this cut in the school milk. That is correct, I believe. The Government are going to cut off the milk, see whether the kiddies get rickets, and then consider whether the milk should be restored. Why not have the full scientific and medical evidence before you make the cuts? Then, if you get conclusive evidence to show that these children will not suffer by having the milk taken away from them, it might be reasonable to come forward with such an economy as is suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, paraded this cut as part of the Government's economy measures. It may from one point of view be an economy to save £9 million while you are giving away £1,000 million to more comfortable circles, but is it really an economy to take those bright, bouncing boys and girls in the schools to-day and condemn them to the kind of life that their forebears suffered thirty and forty years ago? Because that is what is going to happen. I do plead with the Government (although, as I said, the noble Lord seems to be beyond redemption) to think twice on this matter, in which case they will earn the gratitude of millions of parents in this country.

Of course, I really ought not to be speaking like this. The electors in June last year voted for all this. They knew what they were voting for when they voted a Tory Government into office. They knew there would be all this meanness, all this increased unemployment, all these increases in food prices and these higher rates, rents and fares. They knew it but of course they voted for it, and in a democracy I suppose they ought to have known what was coming to them. But then we, in this House, have the privilege of not being Parliamentary voters, so I think that factor alone leaves us free to speak. If I had my way I would speak from now until midnight, but I understand that a number of your Lordships want to speak, so I will sit down.


My Lords, I was one of those who abstained on both votes we have had on this matter so far, because I think the Bill has nothing to do with money but rather with education, and that if education is still to be free so should the milk be free. Many children do not like drinking milk. Many children above the age of 9 have wasted milk, and this is a point in favour of the Government's scheme. That I know to be true. But it is not the poor children who are going to be affected by this Bill: it is in fact the moderately well-to-do and the richer. They will spend their money on the more exotic orange and fizzy lemonades, which is no good, and they will not be subject to the discipline of free milk. That is why I regret that it is going. If noble Lords opposite had put down an Amendment raising the age to nine—in other words, making it from nine to eleven—I should have been bound to support it, but I feel that the other House having taken their decision and this House its decision, then at this stage, reluctantly and hating this as I do, I shall have to vote against the Amendment.


My Lords, I have heard all this for forty years. I just want to go on record with one sentence. I would rather the parents and the people had the money than that we gave out free issues of this and free issues of that in every direction. I think this is due to our people now. They are educated, sophisticated, wise and sensible, and know how to spend their money. But those who are poor should have more, and those who are not so poor should have less. I think that is a sensible arrangement, and this is part of a good, sensible arrangement. I do not believe for one moment that children are going to go without milk because they will go in for"pop ". If they do, then their parents should teach them better; and so should the teacher.


My Lords, as a Cross-Bencher I should like to put in just a word, if I may, having observed this debate raging to some extent on what might be regarded as Party lines. I should just like to recall to your Lordships what seems to me the basic point that is at issue in this Amendment. In 1943, before the war was over but looking forward to the post-war Five-Year Plan, the then Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, said: There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies". That was in a broadcast address; and I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, when he says that of course a Government must have priorities. It is not for me to say what the then Prime Minister would have given as a priority, although he used that rather round phrase,"There is no finer investment for any community ". He was also speaking of babies, but I think he was really thinking of the food policy of his right honourable friend Lord Woolton, which had revolutionised the kind of diet that children had then and have had ever since, only better. I really think that now to take away something which has been proved of such value, even though it is the Government's bounden duty to fulfil their Election pledges, and although they made quite plain that they wanted to concentrate the help where it was most needed, is wrong.

I myself think that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, was right when he said that there were a great many children whose parents could afford this milk but who will not in fact get it if this Bill is not amended. I am prepared to bet the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, a bottle of port to a one-third pint bottle of milk that, in the event, five years from now, if this Bill is not amended, there will be a dramatic falling off in the amount of milk drunk at schools. It was said in Committee that it would be better for the parents and that the parents would probably buy the milk and get the children to drink the milk at home, instead of sending them off to school with some money. With respect, a great many children do not particularly like milk and will not drink it at home; but they will drink it in the company of their friends at school.

I plead with the Government, even at this late hour, to consider whether they could possibly meet those of us who very nearly divided the House in favour of the previous Amendment on the Committee stage. I plead with the Government to think once more before they take this step, which will mean that children, who I am sure we all agree need this milk, will not have it. I am not speaking now of those on the edge of malnutrition and who will be revealed by the monitoring system, nor even of those who are on the margin of poverty. I am taking the realistic view that if we pass this Bill in its present form a large number of children between the ages of seven and eleven who ought to have, and who would be the better for having, one-third of a pint of milk a day will in fact not have it.


My Lords, may I say just this? If the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite will agree to adjourn this debate in order to give consideration to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, I will do my best from this side to persuade my colleagues not to speak any further. We would be happy indeed to accept an adjournment so that the Government could give further consideration to the points which have been raised.


My Lords, may I make two points, and no more? The first is on Lord Belstead's statement. He has made out the Government's case as always going one better than something which the Labour Government did, something which many people in the Labour Party did not even wish or agree to. The age at which the issue of milk is stopped is very important. It is much more important to stop it at eleven, if you are going to stop it, than at seven. That is one point. The other point I wish to make arises out of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, when he said that, because of the family income supplement, this measure will not make the people on the poverty line poorer. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, reads his newspapers, but every day I read that people are not taking up the family income supplement. Therefore, they are left the poorer if their children are denied their one-third of a pint of milk a day.


My Lords, I wonder if, at the end of this considerable discussion, I may be allowed to add my views as a school manager of two very old primary schools. I heartily support what my noble friend Lord Brooke said in regard to the package approach. My two very old primary schools badly need rebuilding, in my view, and, of course, there are a vast number of others, scattered all over the country, of which the same can be said. But I should like to return to the practicalities of this whole milk problem. The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has suggested, as indeed have many other speakers, that milk is a beneficial institution in schools. I query, first of all, the basic theme that the nutritional value of milk is indispensable. I am very interested in nutrition generally, though I am not an expert. Secondly, I should like to draw attention to what was said by my noble friend Lord Monckton in regard to wastage. All school managers who are concerned with the direct management of affairs within schools are only too well aware of the difficulties that teachers have in persuading children to swallow the milk. This is a universal problem and it occurs specially in winter terms. During the summer terms it is easier. I suggest that there are practical considerations to be looked at. I feel that the nutritional side is an open question, and therefore I would support my noble friend Lord Brooke in viewing this as a matter of priorities.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know whether there is likely to be any response from the Government to the idea of adjourning this debate so that the Government may think again. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, indicates that there will be none. May I make it quite clear that the only way to achieve any change at all is to give the Government an opportunity to think about the matter again by the House accepting this Amendment? That will then give another place an opportunity to go into the matter in considerable detail and to consider the criticisms on many points that have been raised in this House from all parts. I remember the points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton—and no answer was given to Lord Milverton at any time during the Committee stage. I recall the criticisms made by his noble friend Lord Auckland, and the noble Lord opposite will recall that in Committee he had but one speaker from his side who said anything that could suggest support for the Bill.

I want to make it quite clear that I recognise that this Amendment will be defective. But if it is carried it will give the Government an opportunity to give to the many points that have been raised here the kind of attention that they failed to give in our Committee. I feel that we have been confronted throughout our debates by a determination to pass this Bill without changing a dot or a comma. No Government should assume that they can bring a measure of this kind to this House in this way without your Lordships' saying:"Stop! You are not getting away with it! We intend to check any Government who want to ' steamroller ' any Bill through this House." I say that because the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, throughout the Committee stage again and again expressed sympathy with the criticisms that were voiced. The Government could at any time themselves have come forward with Amendments to remedy the defects, not of the Amendments but of the Bill.

My Lords, I must be careful; for I thought at one stage that this discussion on the subject of milk was going to put up the temperature of the House. I was grateful when the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, came in and lowered the temperature somewhat. May I say that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, was right on one point, and that was the question of priorities. It is all a matter of priorities. Is there one noble Lord who would not put the interests of his children first when considering priorities? Is there one noble Lord who would say that other things come before that? The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, has made one or two contributions during the stages of this Bill. May I say that I hold him in high regard, but I do not believe that he begins to understand how a great many people live; or that he begins to understand the point made by my noble friend Lady Gaitskell and the point completely ignored by Government spokesmen, in trying to defend this Bill, when they talked about family income supplement. Let them tell us what the take-up is; because they know that at the moment it shows all the signs of being a ghastly failure. And why? Because people are proud in poverty and there will always be a great many people who will not apply for benefits of the kind that the family income supplement offers.

What is the position of the parents who will not spend money on milk? If the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, imagines that this question was asked only by those on this side of the House, I may point out that Lord Brooke referred to that situation as"tragic ". What help can we give the children in these tragic circumstances where the parents will not give the children money for milk, where they prefer to spend it on cigarettes and beer? I venture to suggest that the only way we can ensure that these children get milk is to ensure the continuance of what is being done at present. The point I think the House needs to take is this: under this Bill it does not matter how poor a family is, poverty itself does not secure free milk. For a child in the age group seven to eleven to get free milk at school, a medical officer must issue a certificate saying that there is a medical need. I think that that point has not really sunk in; but it is one that I think the House should take.

It would be easy to repeat all the arguments that were put forward at the Committee stage. In opening, I tried to avoid too much repetition; but, if I may, I will once again mention the word"priorities ". I do not think that the welfare, the security or the economic progress of this country depends upon depriving children between the ages of seven and eleven of one-third of a pint of milk a day. This country is not in such a desperate situation as that. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, knows this perfectly well when he talks about it all being part of a national strategy, and claims credit for the fact that £38 million is going to be saved by putting up the price of school meals, and by cutting free milk, in order to build new schools. I want to say that, whatever criticism there may be of a Labour Government regarding education and of what that Government did not do, they were responsible for the largest expenditure—a record expenditure—in the field of education. I think more recognition might be given to that. I do not want to take up the time of the House any further.



Some noble Lords may say"Hear, hear! "; but there will be many people outside this House who will be interested in the number of noble Lords who spoke and in the number who thought it was a subject that ought not to be discussed. I hope very much that this Amendment will be carried and that, when it has been included in the Bill, the further thought will be given to making alterations in the Bill which will make it more thoroughly acceptable and more worth while than it is at the present time.

4.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 77; Not-Contents, 97.

Airedale, L. Gaitskell, Bs. Platt, L.
Amherst, E. Garner, L. Raglan, L.
Amulree, L. Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Reay, L.
Archibald, L. Geddes of Epsom, L. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Ardwick, L. Granville of Eye, L. Royle, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Rusholme, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hankey, L. Seear, Bs.
Beswick, L. Hanworth, V. Segal, L.
Blyton, L. Henderson, L. Serota, Bs.
Boothby, L. Henley, L. Shackleton, L.
Bourne, L. Hoy, L. Shannon, E.
Boyle of Handsworth, L. Hurcomb, L. Shepherd, L.
Bristol, Bp. Jacques, L. Silkin, L.
Brockway, L. Leatherland, L. Slater, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Lindgren, L. Sorensen, L.
Byers, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Stocks, Bs.
Camoys, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stonham, L.
Champion, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Stow Hill, L.
Chorley, L. McLeavy, L. Strang, L.
Clwyd, L. Meston, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Moyle, L. Walston, L.
Diamond, L. Nunburnholme, L. White, Bs.
Douglas of Barloch, L. O'Hagan, L. Williamson, L.
Falkland, V. Pargiter, L. Willis, L.
Faringdon, L. Peddie, L. Wise, L.
Foot, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]
Aberdare, L. Essex, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Aldington, L. Ferrers, E. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Northchurch, Bs.
Atholl, D. Gage, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Auckland, L. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Orr-Ewing, L.
Balerno, L. Gowrie, E. Poole, L.
Balfour, E. Grenfell, L. Reading, M.
Barnby, L. Gridley, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Belstead, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. St. Helens, L.
Berkeley, Bs. Hacking, L. St. Just, L.
Birdwood, L. Hailes, L. Salisbury, M.
Blackford, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Saltoun, L.
Brentford, V. Sandford, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Harcourt, V. Sandys, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Hertford, M. Selkirk, E.
Caccia, L. Hood, V. Selsdon, L.
Carrington, L. Howe, E. Sempill, Ly.
Chelmer, L. Hylton-Foster, Bs. Stamp, L.
Colyton, L. Ilford, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Conesford, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Strathclyde, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Jessel, L. Swinton, E.
Craigavon, V. Lauderdale, E. Tenby, V.
Craigmyle, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Terrington, L.
Crathorne, L. Long, V. Teviot, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lothian, M. Thomas, L.
Daventry, V. Loudoun, C. Tweedsmuir, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lyell, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
Devonport, V. Mancroft, L. Vivian, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Masserecne and Ferrard, V. Ward of Witley, V.
Dulverton, L. Merrivale, L. Willingdon, M.
Ebbisham, L. Milverton, L. Windlesham, L.
Eccles, V. Monckton of Brenchley, V. Wolverton, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Morrison, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Belstead.)


My Lords, I should like to say one word on this Motion before the Bill is passed. We have heard a great deal during the debates on the question of priorities, but we have not heard anything about something in which I was brought up to believe (my father was in another place for 15 years): that timing was one of the great things in politics. I must say that I think the Government's timing of this Bill could not have been worse. They would have had plenty of time to bring in this Bill later on. That would have given the House a chance of discussing it, when we were not tired and strained, as we have been, at the end of this especially long Session.


My Lords, I should like to say two sentences before the Bill passes, if I may. If the Bill passes, as it will, unamended, a great deal less milk is going to be drunk by a great many more children in this country; and nobody can tell me that this will be a good thing for the future generation.


My Lords, I also should like to say one word, as I have not spoken during the passage of this Bill. I must confess that I do not like it. I think that it is a bad Bill, and I wish that our Government had not introduced it. But I think that a good many noble Lords who have spoken from the other side are suffering under one delusion—that is, that this Bill is depriving children of milk. It is doing nothing of the kind. It is merely saying that they shall not have it free. Admittedly this will prejudice the supply of milk for children a great deal, because people do not like having to pay for anything, even a 3p stamp. I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Belstead could not consider some Amendment on these lines when the Bill goes back to another place: that milk shall be made compulsory up to the age of 11, but that parents shall be charged for it, except in cases where extreme poverty can be proved. That, I think, will solve the situation in both directions.


My Lords, I have one small point to make. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has emphasised time and time again that the authorities are to be empowered under this Bill to sell milk. He also referred during the Committee stage to provisions which will enable the authorities to sell other refreshments. I hope that when, as is likely, this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament and no free milk is on general issue, the appropriate Department will take steps to direct the authorities as to the kind of refreshments and foodstuffs which they should sell, and which will be beneficial to children. I have the feeling that typical tuck shop grub will be the kind of thing that children will buy and that this will have a detrimental effect which I have endeavoured to illustrate, particularly on teeth, which will take from seven to ten years to become noticeable.


My Lords, I have listened, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has, to what has been said. It is quite clear that many Members of your Lordships' House, while respecting the position the Government have taken up, have grave reservations about the wisdom of introducing this Bill. I think the Government will have to take note of what has been said. As to what they might do towards meeting the criticism, I confess that I do not know, because the Bill will soon be an Act of Parliament. Personally, I much regret that I have been involved in a controversy of this nature with the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. I should have preferred that we might have been able to find more points of agreement than points of disagreement. I appreciate the unfailing courtesy with which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has replied to arguments and criticisms, some of which must have been a little hard for him to take. We know him as a man, and we regret that he, due to his position, has been placed in the situation which he has. I hope that on some other occasion we shall find matters on which we can reach more agreement than we have been able to reach on this Bill. I want to make it quite clear that we are conscious of the close attention he pays to what is said. I can only hope that we do not too long have to entertain a Government who are capable of inflicting measures of this kind on little children.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Somers asked whether it would not be possible to alter the Bill at this late stage to include an Amendment on extreme poverty. This was tried in Committee in another place and it was found to be almost impossible to define"extreme poverty"from the point of view of this Bill. I know it is the point of view of certain noble Lords, who would have liked to see this rather than a health requirement in the Bill, but I would remind my noble friend that the health requirement is firmly there. We believe that it will work, and that with it will go bracketed the maintenance of people's incomes, which will also, to some extent, safeguard the sale of milk—although I know that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has some reservations about that.

The reply to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is that school meals are of a set nutritional value. If the noble Lord is thinking also of snack meats which can be served under Regulation 5(2), he can rest assured that the School Meals Service, which of course will be overseeing those sort of meals, will also he taking to heart the kind of thoughts that he has on their nutritional value. This is an important point, because the take-up of snack meals to-day is becoming higher and higher.

Last, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, I would point out to the House that the Government are taking every care that the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy have taken an unprecedented step in connection with this Bill in setting up a special committee on child nutrition, and they are starting, along with the many other checks and balances that there are on nutrition, a special and gigantic survey. I think that answers the questions which have been asked by your Lordships.

On Question, Bill passed.