I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
There are few immediate and practical measures in public health which I could commend to the House with better heart and greater enthusiasm than this little Measure which is now before the House. I have long been interested in the issue of school feeding for children, and my first recollectable conference on the subject was at our school board many years ago. I can recollect the efforts made by the great Conservative Minister for Education, Sir John Gorst, and my friend Mr. Martin Haddow, of Glasgow, in endeavouring to arouse public opinion as to the waste and folly of attempting to teach children who, while they were sitting on the school benches, were under-nourished. Then in 1930 I and some others obtained a grant from the Empire Marketing Board of £5,000, and we received also £2,000 from the Miners' Distress Fund in Scotland. We added those two sums together and started a milk feeding experiment in Lanarkshire, with 20,000 school children. As a result of that experiment it was proved beyond the shadow of doubt that a regular course of milk was beneficial to the health of the school children in every way. In the Lanarkshire experiment boys of 11 years of age, after receiving a milk ration during four months, more than doubled the weight increase as compared with boys who got no milk. At the same time girls of the same age also more than doubled their weight increase as compared with those who got no milk. In one case the increase of weight was 12 0zs. and the other 24 0zs. That was the foundations of the milk-in-schools scheme under which to-day children get one-third of a pint of milk a day and, if they are necessitous, get it free. In October, 1931, the last date for which I have figures, 448,000 children in Scotland were getting milk in schools. That meant 59 per cent. of the total number of children on the school rolls. We have not hitherto been able to operate the milk scheme in areas not covered by the Milk Marketing Board, such as the Western Isles, but these are now to be included.
The Government are exceedingly anxious to make a big new advance in nutrition. I believe that the science of nutrition will do for public health what sanitation did for it in the last half-century. We believe that school feeding is highly desirable for many other reasons. First, there are many instances of children, especially in the winter-time, making a journey to and from their homes for a midday meal. Perhaps they get wet, they sit in their wet clothes all the afternoon, and that is bad for them, as it is favourable to the production of respiratory diseases. Secondly, we have now very many instances in which mothers are out at war work and are unable to cook for children who go to school. Thirdly, the cost of school feeding, done on a collective basis, is very low; and it will conserve foodstuffs. In Glasgow, for example, they get a substantial two-course meal for 4½d.; in Edinburgh a two-course meal is supplied for 4d., in Dundee for 4d., and in Aberdeen for 3d. The results of the experiment in Aberdeen have been indeed remarkable. The teachers there are able to detect from their appearance the children who are having their midday school meal as healthier and brighter in appearance in every way.
If I might utter a little word of warning, it is this: that we do not want to begin a school feeding system on an extravagant high-charge basis. Some places are charging 5d. for a two-course meal. We do not want school authorities to make profits out of these school feeding arrangements and, from those profits, begin a system of subsidising sports funds for the schools. That has not been unknown. We are anxious that this nutrition experiment shall be a nutrition experiment, that it will be a definite advance in human well-being. With the Minister of Food helping in every possible way, and the Scottish Education Department prepared to do anything and everything in its power to ' develop the school meals system, I hope that before long we shall be able to report that 20 per cent. of the children attending our schools have a hot midday meal. I go further, and I suggest that we ought to be doing everything we can to encourage the teaching of cookery in our schools. It is more necessary than ever that we should do so, and especially in the last two years of the child's school life. [Interruption.] We hope to reach the highest possible standard, the best possible nutritional standard, at the lowest possible price, for the maximum number of children.
The London County Council had a remarkable experiment with what is called the Oslo meal. They tried it for three months, and the percentage of increase in height which boys who took the Oslo meal showed over boys who did not get the Oslo meal in that period was no less than 71 per cent., and in weight, 82 per cent. The girls who took the Oslo meal increased in height over their friends who did not take the Oslo meal 109 per cent., and in weight 40 per cent. The Oslo meal system, where we have tried it in Scotland, has not commended itself entirely to the school child. He regards a vegetarian diet of that kind as not very appetising. In Aberdeen, for example, our experience has been that children did not willingly take the Oslo meal, and in any case the Oslo meal must be abandoned at the moment, as we have not the necessary materials to provide it. But all those things are being watched, they are all being organised, and I do hope, I believe, that as a result of this experiment of school feeding on a massed scale we shall be able to make a tremendous improvement in the health and well-being of our child population.
I have said that we aim at 20 per cent. That is a big figure for some counties. Op the other hand, it is what Ayrshire has already done; it is what Stirlingshire is almost doing; and the increases which are taking place in some other counties are getting an increased momentum week by week and month by month. To facilitate the rapid expansion of the school meal service, we have, as from 1st October last, increased the rate of grant to local authorities by 10 per cent., with a proviso that the grant shall not exceed 95 per cent. of the total expenditure, nor fall below 70 per cent.—the lowest percentage grant in any area. In addition to that, there will be the rural areas, where it will be difficult to organise a cooked meal service, authority has been given by the Ministry of Food for the supply of certain rationed foods for school children in those areas, and an improved scale of allowances for children in those areas has been announced.
Why is this Bill necessary? The aim of the Government is to prevent malnutrition, instead of trying to remedy it after unmistakable symptoms have appeared. We desire that where school meals are provided, they shall be available for all school children, whether the parents can afford to pay or not. Education authorities in Scotland, it is true, have full power under the Act of 1908 to provide meals for children whose parents can afford to pay, but they are not permitted to supply food to necessitous children unless it is shown that the individual child is, by reason of lack of food unable to take full advantage of the education provided. The law therefore, in our view, must be amended if the Government's policy is to be carried out. As for standards of what is malnutrition, no one knows how you can have such standards. In the Department of Health Report for 1938, Members will find, on page 86, figures for three counties contiguous to one another, where the percentage of children reported as under average varies from, in the case of one county 19 per cent., to nought per cent. in the next county, and 1 per cent. in the next. Obviously, standards of malnutrition must vary very considerably. We are exceedingly anxious to have local authorities given power to feed all children, whether they are necessitous, whether they are under-nourished, or not. The question of whether payments can be recovered from the parents is one for the education authority afterwards.
There is another respect in which the law requires amendment. Even when the child is shown to be in need of food, the education authority is required to go through an elaborate procedure before it can supply meals, except as a temporary expedient. The authority must summon either or both of the parents to appear before it, to give an explanation of the child's condition. If the explanation is not forthcoming, or if it is not satisfactory, and the authority finds that the child's condition is due to neglect, it is required to send a copy of its findings to the parents and a. copy to the Procurator-Fiscal with a view to prosecution. If the authority, or, in the event of a prosecution, the sheriff, is satisfied that the parent is not able, by reason of poverty or of ill-health, to supply the child with sufficient or proper food, the authority has next to be satisfied that the necessities cannot be provided by voluntary agencies. Not until the authority is satisfied on that score can it provide free meals to a necessitous child. Obviously, that sort of procedure cannot be tolerated at this time. By Section 6 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908, authorities are "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd." They render themselves liable to surcharges if they feed children gratuitously without going through this alarming catalogue of difficulties. There is one case of a county in which children were given free meals, a ratepayer took exception to the expenditure, and the authority was found liable to a surcharge of no less than £69,000.
I do not know. All I know is that the surcharge was not imposed. It is obvious, however, that changes in the law must be made if the policy of the Government is to be proceeded with. Under Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 of the Bill, it is provided that an education authority may purchase and provide food for all children attending school in its area, both on days when the school meets and on other days. Subsection (2) says that, where a child is unable to take full advantage of the education provided the authority shall make such provision in the way of feeding as it may determine. This makes it obligatory where the authority finds a child undernourished. All the difficult procedure to which I have referred is abandoned. The third Sub-section empowers the local authority to recover such portion of the expense as it may deem fit. I ought to say that in no case will the costs which may be recovered include the costs of equipment. People may be charged only for food. Clause 2 repeals the provision of the Act of 1914, which empowered authorities to feed children on Sundays and Saturdays and holidays. That Act is repealed because Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 of this Bill authorises authorities to provide food both on days when the school meets and on other days.
Clause 3 deals with a point raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in a recent Debate. Under the present law, local authorities can feed a necessitous child, an under-nourished child, until the age of five. But in some cases there is a gap between the child reaching the age of five and the date of the child entering school. The purpose of Clause 3, Sub-section (1, a) is to bridge this gap, and to empower local and education authorities to continue without intermission feeding arrangements for the under-nourished child. Paragraph (b) secures that deaf children, blind children, and defective children of any kind who are educated by special provision whether in schools or at home, can come in for the benefit of these full arrangements.
I have covered the Bill Clause by Clause, and I am sure that it will be welcomed by local authorities all over the country, and I am equally certain that it will be welcomed by the House and that it will be a tremendous help and benefit to the rising generation of Scotland.
On rising to address the House for the first time, I trust that I may enjoy that kindly indulgence which is usually bestowed upon a new Member on an occasion of this nature. I have noticed in recent months that the tone of a number of speeches of Private Members, including New Members, has been somewhat critical of the Government and that the Government have from time to time been charged with a variety of alleged sins of commission and omission. I am, therefore, very glad that on this occasion I am able to run counter to that tendency and offer my sincere congratulations to the Government and to their advisers of the Scottish Education Department on the production of a small but useful Measure of social reform. Social reform is one of the most important subjects which animate the mind of those Members who sit on these benches and who are disciples of that great Victorian statesman, Benjamin Disraeli. No doubt some of the hon. Members present to-day will recall that, in one of his most famous public speeches, delivered at the Crystal Palace in 1872, Disraeli laid down as one of the principles of our national policy that we should aim at the elevation of the condition of the people. I suggest that this Measure, though admittedly it is a comparatively small one, is following in the true Disraelian tradition in that it will bring relief and assistance to many of our less fortunate fellow citizens and will enable their children to reap fuller benefit from our educational system.
As the Secretary of State has pointed out, the Bill is a short and simple one, and I should like to congratulate the Government upon the clarity of the language in which it is written, as so often Parliamentary Bills are couched in language which is almost incomprehensible to a layman. Furthermore, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has remarked, the Measure before us to-day is pleasantly free from reservations and restrictions, and it does in fact give to the local authorities full power to use their own intitiative without the hampering influence of red tape or undue control from the centre. I hope and believe that that trust will not be abused and that, while local authorities will carry out the terms of the Bill to the fullest possible extent, nevertheless, they will at the same time exercise a wise discretion in regard to the free disbursement of food and clothing in order to prevent the possible growth of any malpractices. As the Secretary of State also pointed out, Section 6 of the 1908 Act, which this Bill will supersede, is out of date and cumbersome, in that it was necessary in individual cases to prove malnutrition before the local authority could arrange for the long-term feeding of the children concerned, and in fact the more enlightened local authorities have long since adopted the Nelsonian tactics of turning the blind eye to the existing Measure and have adopted procedures of their own. To that extent, then, the new Bill really regularises an irregular practice in operation in many parts of Scotland. I hope that once this Bill becomes law the Scottish Education Department, by the use of diplomatic pressure, will see to it that the local authorities in those areas where the old practice is still in use will come into line as rapidly as possible. I stress that point at this moment because in the midst of a great war and furthermore, with the full brunt of winter coming upon us, it is of the greatest possible importance that necessitous children should be clad as warmly as possible and should receive food and milk in adequate quantities.
Turning to the new provisions incorporated in this Measure, I comment on the fact that children of five who are not enrolled at schools are now to come under the education authority, and I welcome that proposal, which fills a gap in the existing procedure. I also welcome the proposal that meals should be supplied to necessitous children on non-school days. Here, again, I am glad to say that that provision has already been anticipated in a number of areas, including that of the Edinburgh Education Committee.
There are two questions which I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, and perhaps he or the Under-Secretary of State, in the reply to the Debate, might comment upon them. The first is: Under this Bill will it be competent for a local authority to provide clothes or food for children who are attending nursery schools, whether those nursery schools are maintained by the local authority or run by private bodies? My second point is this: Supposing, unfortunately, through fire or damage caused by enemy action, the kitchen premises of some private school, such, as, for example, a large merchant company school in Edinburgh, be put out of action, will it be competent for the local authority to provide meals for the children attending that private school? I shall be glad if perhaps the hon. Gentleman will comment on that in his reply to the Debate.
As a former member of the Edinburgh Education Committee, I should like to extend a very hearty welcome to this Measure. We in Scotland, and especially in my native city of Edinburgh, are proud of our traditions in the educational sphere, and it will be much appreciated in Edinburgh and in Scotland generally that, despite the distractions of the times caused by the war, Parliament has still found time to pass into law this very useful little Measure to further the cause of Scottish education.
It is with peculiar pleasure that I follow the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) on the first occasion on which he has addressed this House and congratulate him, as I am sure I may, upon the facility with which he went through that ordeal. He chose a sympathetic audience in choosing a Scottish Debate in which to make his maiden speech. In some respects that perhaps was to some extent more an embarrassment to him than an assistance, but he came through the ordeal very happily indeed. I congratulate him all the more because he follows in the succession of Members for West Edinburgh. I had the honour to represent—or, as I have often said, "misrepresent"—West Edinburgh, because I was a minority Member between 1929 and 1931. The hon. and gallant Member is in a happier position than that; he represents what still is, unfortunately, if I may use that word on this occasion, the majority opinion in that Division. We hope to see him participating in our Debates on numerous occasions in the future.
With regard to this Bill, I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State realises that in bringing in a Measure of this kind he is doing something that will receive whole-hearted approval from this House. I know I can assure him that we shall do our best to assist the rapid passage of this Bill into law. It may be asked why, if this Measure is so very-desirable, it was not given effect to many years ago. My right hon. Friend, in making his references to the law as it stands at present, had to go back to 1908, to the Education (Scotland) Act of that year. He was justified in referring to the provisions of that Act, in respect of the feeding of school children as "absurd provisions." I am glad to think that at long last we are getting rid of these absurd provisions. It is part of what we could expect from my right hon. Friend and from my hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary, whose life-long interest in educational matters is something of which we in Scotland are very proud and something which must be of very great advantage and help in the Scottish Office. My right hon. Friend went back even beyond 1908 and referred to his own efforts in that particular sphere. While he may regret that he has to go back so many years, I am sure we all recognise in him one who has during that time continuously urged progress along the lines that this Bill takes.
He gave us some arguments in favour of passing this Bill into law with the least possible delay and told us of the experiment that had been carried out, notably the Lanarkshire milk feeding experiment, in 1930, for which he was responsible. We recognise all these things and are grateful for the line he took when he had the opportunity. This Measure shows itself to be in some degree permissive, but the arrangements which have been made for meeting the cost of these facilities up to a 95 per cent. grant will be an inducement even to the most backward local authority to press on with giving effect to the Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament. I do not think my right hon. Friend could be expected to go further than that. Our desire will be to urge upon local authorities that they should take advantage of this Measure. It is our wish that my right hon. Friend himself will urge local authorities to take the fullest possible advantage of this Bill when it becomes law. He has shown us that there is no intention here to involve local authorities or anyone else in high costs. He has deprecated the idea of making any profit out of this service, however admirable may be the objects which would be served by making profits.
We welcome this Bill very heartily; we hope it will carry out the intentions of its author. We are glad that it is given to us to deal with a Measure of this kind at the present time. I would point out to my right hon. Friend that in his speech the war was relegated to a very small position. This Measure, which is of so much value to the community, is fashioned on sound lines, and I am sure it is our desire simply to thank my right hon. Friend for giving us the opportunity of passing such a Bill into law and to assure him that we will do our best to help see that its provisions are carried out to the fullest possible extent once it becomes possible for local authorities to take advantage of them.
I want to associate myself with the appreciations that have been expressed about this Measure and also to add my congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) on his maiden speech. I congratulate him not merely on the form and content of that speech but on the fact that when he could have waited some months in this House, preserving silence, watching the antics of all the rest of us and allowing great opportunities to pass by, when he could have spoken on international affairs and world-shaking events, he chose to speak on a matter which, I imagine, in the long run may be much more important than any other of the things in which he has not participated. I congratulate him on his choice of occasion to break silence, and I hope he will be heard more frequently in the Debates of the House of Commons, as is right and proper a Scottish Member should he heard here, even though he comes only from Edinburgh.
As I was listening to the speeches which have been made, I thought to myself how terrible it was that some of us have had to wait 40 years for this Measure. There is an old gentleman still living in Glasgow, Mr. William Martin Haddow, whom the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) know very well, who will be very pleased at this happening to-day. I think he may take some share of the credit for having pioneered this idea and worked on it when it was met with great hostility and antagonism. I cannot understand why this self-evident and important aspect of education has been so long neglected in Scotland, which always prides itself on being a great country of education. While the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite was speaking, I thought it was surprising that during all these years we have always felt it was necessary to see that our Navy was fed. It was recognised that the Navy's job could not be done by people who were starved. Yet, at a more formative period in life, schoolchildren who, as adults, would go into every phase of life, were completely neglected in the matter of nutrition. I can remember that when I was an assistant teacher in an elementary school in a slum quarter of my own Division, my lords of the Scottish Education Department, in their wisdom, brought forward a new scheme of physical training. It was to be operated very energetically and earnestly by all the teachers. Up to that time, the physical training in schools had usually been done by some ex-Army sergeant-major who walked in once a week or once a month and made the youngsters form fours, and so on.
Then the great new scientific system of physical training, based on Swedish principles, was made compulsory in the schools of Scotland, and all the teachers in elementary schools had to acquaint themselves with those methods so as to be able to take their own classes and put the children through their paces. In the school in which I was teaching in the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, I had a class of 60 boys and girls of about 11 years of age. I took them down to the drill hall of the school, and when they had to take the erect posture—which I had great difficulty in taking myself— required in the Swedish exercises before beginning, 36 out of 60 youngsters could not bring both heels and knees together because of rickety malformations. Even at that time it was known that rickets was a disease of malnutrition, and yet no attempt was made to attack this problem in a concerted, organised way as a matter of serious public importance. Throughout the East End and the poor quarter of Glasgow there is still a very large proportion of adults who have malformation of the legs.
I do not want to delay the passage of the Measure in any way—and the right hon. Gentleman may have explained this point before I came into the Chamber, as I was two or three minutes late—but I do not see in the Bill any provision for bringing pressure to bear on a recalcitrant authority which says, "We are not going to bother our heads about this." There are some county authorities in Scotland who take their responsibilities very lightly. I have not any doubt that in the four big cities and in the big industrial counties the authorities will jump at the opportunity to put their educational system in this respect on a sound basis, but there are other authorities of which we know that will look at costs, at one thing and another, and at the trouble and bother, and who will require to be pushed and driven into doing this job properly. I do not see anything in the Measure that gives the Secretary of State in the ultimate the power to do here what he has the power to do in other branches of education—to compel an authority that is not doing its job to come up to the necessary standards. I do not find anything in the Bill which seems to me to give the Secretary of State power to compel in this respect, and I am very dubious about moral persuasion having an influence on the type of authority of which I am thinking.
There are one or two other little points that I want to make. The Minister referred to the cheap rates at which some of the cities are already doing this work, and he mentioned 3d., 4d. and 5d. I have in mind, as I imagine the right hon. Gentleman has, the feeling that we do not want to have too cheap a meal; that is to say, we do not want a meal that is so cheap as to be neither agreeable for the children nor have the nutritional value that we want it to have. We do not want to make cheapness the great aim which the authorities are to have before them in operating the Measure. Admittedly, we do not want to run expensive meals, but we want to see that the meals have all the elements of nutrition and are such that the children will enjoy them. I think that is a matter to which attention ought to be paid.
Another aspect of the matter is that a very large proportion of Scottish parents, particularly if they have three or four youngsters attending school at the same time, will find that a meal at 5d.—for four children, seven days a week—will run up to a pretty hefty bill by the end of the week. I hope that the authorities, in laying down the scales as to who is to receive the meals free and who is to pay, will not impose any disagreeable means test, and that a very broad view will be taken and the position looked at generously in regard to the person who is neither so necessitous as to require to have the meal for nothing or so well off as to be able to afford anything that is asked.
I can foresee tremendous difficulties in some of the smaller schools—and again with some of the county authorities that I can think of—in putting this job on to teachers as an additional job. I think it would be a mistake for highly paid and specially trained teachers to neglect their ordinary educational work for the sake of getting the dinner ready. There are teachers who would do it, and would take to this sort of thing enthusiastically, to the neglect of other work, which, I am afraid, during these 2½ years of war has been very badly messed about already. I do not neglect at all the educational aspect of a meal in school. It might be from some points of view as important an educational period as that devoted to the multiplication table. But "man shall not live by bread alone," the multiplication table is a painful and necessary part of a child's education, and the teacher is there primarily for the training of the youngster's mind rather than the filling of his stomach. I hope authorities will be instructed to see that special staffs are engaged in the preparation and the serving of the meals and that the teacher's ordinary work will not be cut into by the necessity of making preparations for the meal. The other week-end my wife was indisposed, and I was trying to be the angel of the home, and I found that to run a small home meant an interference with the ordinary work that I wanted to do. If that is true for one or two persons, it is far more true particularly in some of these preposterous one-teacher schools that we have dotted all over Scotland, where one teacher has to do the educational work of from 15 to 30 pupils at all ages and all stages; and if, in addition, this work is thrust upon him, I am afraid that poor old Scottish education is going to be in a bad way. I hope the Secretary of State, in issuing his instructions, will give some indication to the authorities that special staffs should be employed for doing this work.
Another thing that has been brought to my notice by a correspondent is that the school management committees could be a useful agency in this matter. It is not referred to in the Bill at all nor, as far as I can remember, in the basic legislation. There is no need to refer to it, because any education authority can remit to the local management committee any of its duties that it cares to. A large proportion of them have not remitted very much to these committees, but this is a matter in which they can be brought into activity, particularly in the rural counties, and when the right hon. Gentleman is sending out the necessary instructions, some reference might be made there to the part that these committees might play. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for taking the necessary steps to bring this Bill before us, and I express tremendous regret that it takes two great wars and a whole lot of difficulties about food supplies to convince the people of Great Britain that it is worth while looking after the health, the growth and the development of our youngsters.
I think that most of us are agreed that the importance of this Bill is out of all proportion to the number of its Clauses. From a practical point of view, it will enable a great many mothers to engage in essential war work who would otherwise be tied to their homes awaiting the mid-day return of their children. It has an importance and significance which are even greater than that. It is significant, because at a time when the whole world is at war a democratic Parliament thinks it worth while to turn its eyes from the sombre and enthralling present to plan for the future of little children. It is important, because if we choose to make it so this can be a first instalment of a new plan for our nation. We in Scotland have always been proud of our Scottish education which has nearly always been good. The record of health and nutrition is not so good. Between seven and eight of every 100 of our children die in infancy as against three in every 100 in New Zealand. Tuberculosis has increased, as have also cerebro-spinal fever and diphtheria. We can immunise against diphtheria, and all of us on these benches are watching with great interest the progress of the immunisation campaign, but the only way in which we can immunise against malnutrition is by group feeding. That can be begun in the schools.
The study of nutritional needs which has been made in recent years in places like the Rowett Institute and which has been referred to by Sir John Orr and Mr. David Lubbock in that admirable booklet, "Feeding the People in War-time,"
shows that nearly one-third of our population subsist on a diet which is below the standard which is now known to be necessary if health is to be maintained and under-nourishment avoided. If we pass this Bill, it will be nceessary for teachers to be constantly on the look out for any symptoms of malnutrition. Where they are ascertained to be present and are brought to the attention of the education authorities, it will be incumbent upon those authorities to provide food. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), whose speech I so much enjoyed, cast a doubt on the fact that education authorities who are recalcitrant can be compelled. I join issue with him there, because Clause 2 of the Bill says,
the education authority shall make such provision for the child.
That will not enable an authority to escape, once this need has been brought to its notice. We shall place a duty upon it which it will be bound by statute to fulfil.
I agree to a certain extent with the hon. Member, but I maintain that where it has been brought to the notice of an education authority that there are symptoms of undernourishment it will be incumbent upon that authority to make provision for feeding the child.
Yes, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has pointed out the cumbrous procedure that has to be gone through before those provisions can be operated, and what we want to do is to cut away this unnecessary red tape in order to make provision immediately for the child when under-nourishment exists.
In a country in which "the piece" is deeply entrenched and which has been so sadly behind in the development of British Restaurants, the communal feeding of children will need intelligent preparation and good cooking. Experience in Wales has not been encouraging. There, if I understand rightly, in cases where facilities for meals were provided in the elementary schools only about 4 per cent. of the children have, so far, taken advantage of them. We must do a great deal better than that in Scotland. My right hon. Friend has given us a sort of target figure of 20 per cent. I hope he will not be content with 20 per cent., not content until we get 100 per cent. if it can be proved that the facilities are needed. Most children like fish and chips, suet puddings and jam tarts; they do not all like green vegetables or soups or fats, but it will be necessary to select foods from both those groups if we are to give them the right kind of meals. It will be necessary also when we are able to provide the ingredients to give them during the summer months meals of the Oslo type. My right hon. Friend will need the help not only of dieticians but of those clever people who are able to make an unpalatable but wholesome meal into a bonne bouche. I think he will be wise also if he obtains the interest of the Minister of Food in his scheme, because the Noble Lord has all sorts of facilities for cooking and for providing transport in and near the big cities which will be of great value.
Let us not worry too much about the cost of this scheme. Most of us—I hope all of us—are determined that never again shall our Scottish agriculture be allowed to decline, and in order to secure that we shall have to subsidise the home producer; indeed it is difficult to see how that can be avoided if we are to maintain and increase the existing rate of agricultural wages. To provide an increased home market for the kinds of food which we can grow best at home—potatoes, milk, green vegetables and our good Scots oatmeal—will help to maintain agricultural prices and so lessen the need for subsidies. Looked at in this light, the Bill may well mark the initiation of a clear and simple home policy, a policy which everyone can understand and in the formulation of which every one of us here can bear a part. Does that seem to be too visionary? When the danger which has brought us together has passed are we going to start again on the petty bickerings about policies which are so necessary for the country and upon which all of us can agree if only we try hard enough to do so? It was said of old, "A little child shall lead them." Here in this modest little Bill we are beginning at the right end; we are beginning with the children. Can we not make this Bill the first instalment of an agreed plan for a healthier and happier Scotland?
I was very interested to hear the account given by the Secretary of State for Scotland, in which he went back to his earlier days when he stood almost alone in public life in fighting in favour of school feeding. He left out one incident which I think is of interest. I was standing in 1903 my first contest as candidate for the School Board of Glasgow, when he came along in order to take a canvassing card and canvass on my behalf. That was one of the great honours I received in early life. I remember the first years of my membership of the School Board of Glasgow. There were then 15 members; they were increased to 25 later. Only four of them were in favour of feeding schoolchildren on any terms. One of them was Mr. Martin Haddow, to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred. Another was Dr. Dyer, who rose to be chairman of the Board. I remember that, in 1906, after its election, the Board's first act was to send a representative to London to oppose any idea of feeding of schoolchildren, cither for England or for Scotland. In some respects England was ahead of Scotland at that time. I remember a remarkable occasion in the House of Commons when a Resolution was carried in favour of the proper feeding of schoolchildren. Since then, I have lived to see all parties contending one with another which can go furthest in providing milk and proper feeding for the schoolchildren. What was once a battle, and a keen battle at that, has become a race, almost, as to who will do the most in this regard.
The main objection against the feeding of schoolchildren, as it was then proposed, was that it would undermine the responsibility of the parents, and interfere with the sanctity of the home. We did not then realise sufficiently, as we realise now, that you must have a material as well as a moral basis for the home. I am the last to seek to undermine, and would rather emphasise, moral values as the foundation of a happy and healthful home; but a good, solid, material foundation is needed also, on which to build. The whole attitude has changed from those times to the times to which we have now come. The first idea, which will be found in the Act of 1908, was: Here is a child suffering from malnutrition and lack of food and clothing, and unable to take advantage of the education offered to it. The first thought that came to them then was prosecution.
Due warning was to be given, and then it was to go, if need be, before the Sheriff to find out whether it was due to gross neglect by the parents. If it was so found by the Board or by the Sheriff, the case was to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution. Emphasis was laid on the heinousness of the offence, which was to be punishable as an offence under the Cruelty to Children Acts. In conformity with the Act of 1904, it was defined as "wilful neglect likely to cause a child unnecessary suffering" within the meaning of that Act. Then if it was discovered that the child was unable to take advantage of the education because he was really suffering from lack of proper food and clothing, the next thought was that voluntary agencies should provide what was lacking—everything to stave off the day when the public authority would step in with any responsibility. That again proved to be quite inadequate, and only then did the Board provide—indeed, they were bound to provide—the necessary food and clothing.
I think the scheme outlined in this Bill and explained by the Minister is a real advance. The moral aspect of the question still remains, and if there is gross neglect, it can still be dealt with under the law. Here, however, we have the whole subject on broad, humanitarian and universal scholastic grounds. Attention is to be paid to the nutrition not only of those who plead poverty but to all, whatever may be the condition of the child and the parents. We are looking forward to a time when education will be on a broader basis altogether. We have come now, in a city like Glasgow and in many parts of the country in Lanarkshire, to treat all children on an equal basis. We have free elementary education and, generally speaking, free higher education in our secondary schools. It is one of the elements of this Measure which appeal to us that it puts the nutrition of the child on a broad humanitarian basis and treats all children alike. It makes us think of the time towards which we are always, I trust, travelling forward, when poverty itself
will be eliminated, and when the fullest provision will be made for all, regardless of their social conditions. There is a verse in Deuteronomy, Chapter XV, verse 11—I am not sure if it is correctly translated in the Authorised Version; I rather think not—which has been often quoted:
For the poor shall never cease out of the land.
It was often quoted in support of the continuance of poverty, and as an excuse by those who maintained that the helping of the poor was a field for the resources of the rich. But those who quoted that verse did not note that almost alongside it, in the same chapter, verse 4, was this better time coming:
Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it.
We are looking forward and, I trust, struggling to the time when that discrimination of rich and poor shall have passed away; we shall have none—
Save when there shall be no poor among you.
Seeing that I am quoting Scripture, I will close with another verse. When Zechariah is describing the better Jerusalem which is being rebuilt in his time, he pictures it as a Jerusalem in which there are seen
old men and old women in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age ";
and alongside of them the fulness of young life:
and the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
That is a picture to which we would look forward—happy, tended boys and girls, full of energy. I notice in the report of the experiment to which the Minister referred in Lanarkshire that one of the teachers, speaking of the new energy of those who had partaken of this experiment, said it had gone too far, and that they were becoming rather too boisterous for his teaching purposes.
That at any rate was a pretty striking illustration. I remember once when it was proposed that our Sunday schools should meet at two o'clock in the afternoon instead of at five, one argument was that the child's mind was more alert and the child more active and energetic at 2 p.m. One of the teachers, now a professor, my own son, indeed, said he thought they were active enough at five in the afternoon without changing to two. That is the picture there drafted and for which we are striving, a generation of young people, strong in body, buoyant in life and energy, and enriched in mind.
I should like to add only a few words to this general discussion, as it is very late. Nobody could possibly be opposed to this Bill, but must indeed bless it. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) got right down to the pith of the problem. I think we are a little too apt to say, when a Bill for social progress, obviously good, comes before the House, "It is all right, good. It is a fine Bill." But everything depends on the administration. Nobody knows that better than my right hon. Friend. I am not one of those who believe that this is a war merely for survival. I believe the more we can say about the future on as uncontroversial a basis as possible the better for us and for everybody else. I was. told the other day that they would like to know in South American countries about some remarks I made at a small meeting about a Ministry of Childhood. I asked of what conceivable interest it could be to South American countries. The man replied that it might seem so to me, but that it gave a sense of confidence that we were going to win this war and that we were concerned about the future. That remark was made by a distinguished journalist.
But it is rather ironical that, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton said, it has taken, not one war but two wars, literally, to make the people of Scotland wake up to this public scandal. We had a system of education 200 years before England. It was all right: it produced men who went out all over the world and created the Empire, and it produced a number of men who "made good," as they say. But what was left behind? Every Scottish Members knows that not only housing conditions but health conditions in Scotland, in the urban centres, are worse than in England. They are worse than in a good many places which we feel are backward countries. That blot can be removed only by the most drastic measures. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend introduce this Bill. I used to listen with great interest, from the side of the House on which he now sits, to the speeches that he made on nutrition. I was particularly interested in a remark that he made to-day, that, whereas in the 19th century sanitation was the keynote, it may be that in the 20th century nutrition will be the keynote of a big advance in health.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge (Mr. Barr), who, although not a Member for Ayrshire, has long been resident in Ayrshire, has raised the question of the home. Do not let us run away from this problem. Most of the opposition to this communal feeding was on the ground that it was breaking up the home. Letters appeared in the "Times," only a month ago, to that effect. The same objection is made in regard to nursery schools, laundries, and everything which is being taken, like industry is, out of the home. We have to make up our minds what we think about this. I hold the view that until a number of things are taken out of the home—as industry was taken out of the home, and put into a factory—no working mother is likely to have the chance of a decent life. It is very easy to talk about the home, but some of us have been making investigations lately about the number of hours that a working mother with three children has to spend in the home if there are to be three meals a day. It is sheer drudgery. Until this question is put on a rational basis, and faced, we shall get these old obscurantist arguments—and, in some cases, very good arguments—put up in defence of the home. As the hon. Member for Bridgeton says, this is not a nutrition Measure, it is an education Measure. The old idea that education consists of five hours a day, five days a week, being spent in a place called a school, is out of date. In Ayrshire, we are feeding 20 per cent. of the children, but we are feeding them not from the school, but from canteens in Ayr and elsewhere. The essence of the thing is the school garden, with fresh vegetables, all overheads paid by the county authority, the children taking part in the process of serving the meal and waiting at table, as they have done at Christ's Hospital for the past 20 years.
Not on that basis. The teachers at Kilmarnock have rebelled against taking part in school meals. What is the answer of my right hon. Friend to that? Is he going to say that this is part of teaching work? What is the function of a teacher to-day? The function of a school is not five hours a day, with young people sitting in rows, but a lively community centre, where there is feeding, and where there are gardens, workshops and domestic science on a new basis. That is what is happening in all the live places. Scotland has to get used to the fact that you do not necessarily have a good system of education by having 20 counties doing roughly the same thing. I have come to the conclusion that the environment side, the buildings, the milk, the food, should be equal, otherwise what is the meaning of "equality of opportunity"? Why, if you were born in Edinburgh, should it mean one thing, and, if you were born in Kilmarnock, another? It is fantastic. There is no phrase as susceptible to humbug as the phrase "equality of opportunity." I ask the right hon. Gentleman to analyse the position every time he has to give attention to it. If you are to have compulsion, and (even standardisation in the provision of food, then let us have every variety in education itself. Let us have the greatest flexibility in the curriculum, from the nursery school up to the university.
There is another question that I want to ask in connection with the case of the recalcitrant authority. Who brings the matter to the notice of the authority? In the old days there was a very elaborate provision. Who brings to the notice of the education authority the fact that a child is suffering from malnutrition or is not suffering from malnutrition but is a long way off proper nutrition?
A job that belongs to anyone is very often not done. Therefore, it is a good idea that it shall be somebody's job, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that there is only one way in which to do this thing. He will before long have to make surveys. How can he find out who are the children? It is no good waiting until a state of malnutrition. I know the right hon. Gentleman does not want that sort of thing. How is he going to detect it beforehand? I suggest that the only way is to have a survey, and after that a second survey by the Department itself, so that he can say that in a particular area, say, in Ayrshire, there are 3 per cent. of the children suffering and in need of meals, and perhaps 5 per cent. on the borderline. Unless a survey is made—and I know that the matter has been speeded up in war-time and that you may get a big increase—there will be great danger of many children slipping through unless the medical officer, the teacher or some public-spirited person on the education committee happens to bring cases to notice.
This is a matter of very considerable importance. May I draw the attention of my hon. Fiend to the fact that I instanced a case in Scotland where, as a result of medical examination, we got variations in the number of children who were alleged to be under-nourished, such as in one county 19 per cent. and in an adjoining county nothing? It is very difficult.
I suggest that there is a way out. The local authorities should make a survey, and the Department should make a covering survey. This would be a convenient way of checking up. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is familiar with this point. A survey could be made by local authorities and inspectors from the central Department; and if local authorities themselves did not make the survey, it could be made by the Department, in default. This has been done in 12 counties in England in recent years.
One hon. Member threw out a challenge about this question which I should like to take up. He asked whether it was not possible for some of these Measures to be taken out of ordinary party politics? Well, if we have to wait until parties in Scotland make up their minds, it is time parties were abolished. This matter cannot wait and I want the right hon. Gentleman to press on, beyond 20 per cent. if he can. It often happens that in wartime, people's habits change and there is more chance of getting something done. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on bringing this Measure into the forefront of social reform in Scotland and I only hope that the administration will be equal to the success which he has had with this Bill so far.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is introducing this Bill. It is certainly an advance on the 1908 Act but it retains a principle which I have fought against ever since it was instituted in this House—the means test, the blackest piece of legislation we have ever put through. I wish my right hon. Friend had had a little more courage and had taken this principle out of this Bill. He said that Section 6 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908, would be repealed but these words are retained:
Where an education authority make provision for a child in pursuance of this Section they shall be entitled to recover from the parent of the child the expense thereby incurred. …
I know there is a lot of talk about the people who can afford it being made to pay, but in this case you are penalising those who cannot pay. Nobody knows better than my right hon. Friend that Scots do not like folk probing into their circumstances. They resent it very much. They do not parade their poverty. He knows those sentiments and has echoed them many times. He should be the last person to retain this principle of the means test, particularly at a time when we are supposed to be making plans for a new world order. Here was a glorious opportunity for my right hon. Friend. Sarcastic references have been made occasionally in this House to the boast that the Scots are well-educated. I am an ordinary engineer and I am the father of seven children who have gone through the Scottish education system and who can take their place among the best-educated in England. They are the products of Scottish education.
Yes. In spite of all the drawbacks, they were educated by the Scottish system. I know the drawbacks of 36 years back, when we paid for their education, paid for their books, paid for everything. The benefits that have accrued to Scottish children in my time are beyond the wildest dreams of the Socialists of my youth. That is the good groundwork on which the present Secretary of State, a Socialist, has the opportunity of building at a time when the atmosphere in the House is such that I am sure hon. Members would agree to allow the means test to be wiped out. I appeal to the Secretary of State to eliminate it entirely from the Bill.
The only other point I want to mention refers to the school management committees. I cannot speak for other constituencies, but I can speak for my own constituency. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary know that if there is one place where the school management committees take an interest in their work, it is in Clydebank and Dumbarton. I ask the Secretary of State to give the school management committees all the encouragement he can. How essential it is that we should see to it that our children are not only well educated but well fed. The most essential thing with the children is to be fed. It is more important than education. The Scottish children were never better fed than they were at the back end of the last war, when the feeding was on an organised plan. The Secretary of State has all that experience, and I ask him to put his practical experience into this Measure. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill.
I confess that I do not view the whole of the contents of the Bill with the same enthusiasm as some hon. Members. On the other hand, I am not in the least surprised at the enthusiasm with which the Bill has been received by certain hon. Members opposite, because undoubtedly it is almost 100 per cent. a Socialist Measure. I do not object to it on that ground, because I recognise that a coalition Government must inevitably be a government of give and take, and here is something for those who believe in Socialism which I am not prepared on principle to oppose. But I feel, on examination of the Bill, that it would be quite impossible to let it go without some safeguards and some Amendments, because I think that it makes the education authorities and our schools altogether too much like charity organisation societies. The Bill seems to take away a very great deal of the independence of the Scottish people and to encourage far too much State aid and spoon-feeding, which have been so entirely contrary to the character of the Scottish people up to date.
It seems to me to be a very great pity that we should give in Clause 1 as I read it, carte blanche to any education authority so minded to provide complete meals for every child in the school. Admittedly, if the Bill centred on the problem of necessitous children, those who needed feeding, those suffering in any way from malnutrition there is not a Member of the House nor a citizen of the country who would not give it 100 per cent. support but, unless I read the Bill wrongly, it is in no way confined to those suffering from malnutrition. It gives carte blanche to feed the children in school and to provide full meals, at the complete discretion of any particular education authority. There are education authorities and education authorities. Some recognise the value of independence and are not so desperately keen on State aid unless it is necessary in the interests of the children. Others, on the other hand, jump rapidly at the opportunity of giving State aid, especially when it is not going to cost them too much. There should be greater opportunity for a local authority to prove to the satisfaction of the Education Department and the Secretary of State that there is full justification if they take complete advantage of this Sub-section.
In Sub-section (3), I do not like the wording "shall be entitled to recover." I do not see why you should not leave out the words "shall be entitled to" and simply say "shall recover," because that again seems to give a local authority which might hold certain views, a considerable advantage, at the expense of the State or the ratepayers to a large extent, over other local authorities who might not hold the same views. I suggest that an Amendment to the Clause will be necessary to make the Bill more satisfactory. It may be unpopular to express these views and they are not, I know, liked by other people, but I am prepared to express them because I regard this proposal as a move in the wrong direction. If it were a case of State aid for necessitous children, that would be grand. But it is a Measure of Socialist spoon-feeding, and contrary to the highest principles of Scotland.
I welcome the Bill. This legislation is very near my heart. Like the Secretary of State, I also fought my first election for the school board on this particular issue and, to my surprise, I was returned. The only difference is that my election was for an important constituency in Glasgow whereas his was for a little tinpot authority known as Kirkintilloch. I regret that we have not a more far-reaching Bill. It would be one of the greatest health measures possible to give every child a proper, well-balanced meal irrespective of what the parents earned. If you put it on the rates or taxes it would "even out" and those with bigger incomes and no children would help those with smaller incomes and big families, because a bigger population is needed to carry on the affairs of the State. I welcome the Bill even with its limitation, because it is a step in the right direction. I wish, however, that it had been made compulsory because certain local authorities shelter behind these provisions and consider that it is not important that they should put the feeding of the children into operation. Everybody will agree that it is particularly necessary at the present time to feed all children, apart from necessitous children. The mothers are being asked to go into war factories and leave their children, and while there are nursery schools and homes and while provision is made to a certain extent for the children from 2 to 5, nothing is done for the school children. In Glasgow, numbers of children are wandering about the streets without proper meals and being put off with bread and margarine.
What is to happen in future? There will be no saving to the rates and taxes because we shall have to provide for the children who fall into ill-health. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr Maxton) spoke about the number of rickety children who attended the school to which he went in the East End of Glasgow. The terrible number of rickety children used to be attributed to the soft water, but it was found that the children in the West End of Glasgow were not rickety. The disease prevailed among the children in the poor districts and was due to want of vitamins and sunlight. There is not much sunlight owing to the dark climate and the high tenements. Many parents do not understand about well-balanced meals and the foods that contain vitamins, and as a result of rationing and restrictions it is more difficult than ever to get the proper foods. Certainly women in factories cannot do it. I can understand the point of view of the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew (Major Lloyd), for I have lived in his county and know the kind of person who lives there. They have not a big city such as Glasgow to look after. Under the old Education Act the School Board of Glasgow fed the children who needed it and they had a scale under which if parents were earning less than a certain amount, the board provided food for the children. Some ratepayers, like the people who live in Renfrew, discovered that the Act was not drafted to cover that provision and that unless it was proved through a doctor or in some other way that a child was suffering from malnutrition, it could not be fed. The same thing applied to clothing, and difficulties were put in the way of progressive school boards carrying out this provision.
I want to say a word about clothing. Having been a shop assistant, I think about it as well as food. Clothing is a necessity for health. When the evacuation scheme was introduced we heard a lot about dirty children from Glasgow. You cannot keep children or grown-up people clean unless they have a change of clothes. I am glad, therefore, that the Government are going into the clothing question from the point of view of health. When children are not properly clothed the authorities will have power to provide clothes for them, where the parents are not able to do so. Where the parents have sufficient income they will be forced to see that the children are kept properly clean and clothed. I have much pleasure in welcoming the Bill, but at the same time I associate myself with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) in saying that it is a pity it is not compulsory and that it is not to be put on the rates, because a lot of children who need feeding will not get it. It would have been worth while to have taken a bigger plunge and to have said that, from the point of view of having a healthy nation, every child should be provided with food and clothing.
I agree with the hon. Lady in deploring the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), with whom I am very often in agreement. On this matter I think he expressed a thoroughly reactionary view. To provide free meals for school children is surely no more a Socialist measure than to provide free education. To-day nobody regards free education as Bolshevism, and I feel that we are boggling at a real problem by attempting to continue making parents responsible for paying sometimes and not at other times. Therefore, I find myself here in agreement with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), which is not always the case. I feel that it would be infinitely better if we laid it down now that a part of free education is a free midday meal for all children. I say that with some little experience of the need for it in a country district like Fife. There we have not only ploughmen's children but often the children of farmers going long distances to school each day. In the case of the ploughmen's children, and sometimes also in the case of farmers' children, they go off in the morning having had only little to eat, and if there is no meal for them in the middle of the day they are left for 12 hours with no proper nourishment in their stomachs, and that does real harm. It costs the State far more in recovering their health, and it causes a gradual fall in the standard of man-power in the country districts. Therefore I should like this Bill to be amended in such a way as to make the provision of a free meal part of the educational system.
I wish to say a word in reference to some observations which were made about the Act of 1908. My right hon. friend referred to some of its provisions as being, I think he said, "intolerable," and said their efforts had been "cabin'd, cribb'd and confin'd," and somebody else described that Act as a public scandal. I feel the references to that measure have been a little ungrateful. After all, 1908 was 33 years ago, and a Liberal Government 33 years ago was progressive enough
to make those provisions. Let me read them:
Provided that it shall be shown to the satisfaction of the School Board that such parents… are unable by reason of poverty or ill-health to provide sufficient and proper food and clothing for the children… in such a case, if the Board is so satisfied, it shall make such provision for the child out of the school fund as it deems necessary.
We ought to pay a little tribute to our predecessors of 33 years ago for being so advanced as to make that provision. It is true that it was hedged in with a number of conditions which we now wish to sweep aside, but it is slightly ungrateful to speak as though nothing had been done when, in fact, a big advance was made.
I gather that there is to be a Committee stage of the Bill, and therefore the detailed points which I had intended to raise need not be raised now. I have mentioned to the Under-Secretary only one of a number of Amendments which I should like later to put upon the Paper. It is an Amendment concerning a matter of considerable importance. I am sorry the Bill is confined to provisions relating to food and clothing, and I propose to ask whether it ought not to include lack of medical attention as one of the statutory reasons preventing a child taking full advantage of the education provided for it. The Act of 1913 made provision for medical and surgical attention. It is now proposed to repeal Section 6 of the Act of 1908, with reference to which the Act of 1913 has always been applied, and the Act of 1913 will be left rather in the air. In order to ensure that medical attention is, in fact, provided, I am suggesting that the lack of it should be regarded as a statutory reason. In order to avoid the awful business of cross-reference from one Act of Parliament to another, I suggest that it would be well to repeal the Act of 1913 as well as the Act of 1908, and to introduce into the Bill words in regard to medical attention. I propose to put Amendments down in that sense. There are some smaller points which seem important but which can be raised upon the Committee stage. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the Measure so far as it goes, but I wish he would take his courage in his hands and go the whole hog, as I believe the House desires.
I associate myself with the congratulations that have been offered to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I would include the Ministry of Food for their generous co-operation in regard to this Measure, the necessity for which is obvious. Apart from the educational necessity, it is plain that the measures indicated by the Ministry of Labour last week will be impossible of fulfilment without the Bill. The Ministry of Labour made proposals in relation to the conscription of married women for industry. In Renfrewshire, about 1 per cent. of the children are being fed in school, but in the same area are two huge engineering towns. One is my own division. It can be fairly presumed that the Ministry of Labour hopes to direct many married women into those engineering shops. Effective servce cannot be obtained from such women unless their children are provided with the essential meals and if those women are worried about rations and about their children and, eventually, when they are confronted with ill-health.
There are two points that I would put before the Secretary of State for Scotland. In the circular which he is giving us we are impresed with the quantities of food which are being made available to each centre. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not stop short of seeing that the cooking of the food is adequate. Those of us with experience of local government know that one of the big curses with which we are confronted is institutional cooking. Any modern doctor will readily agree that food shovelled down children's mouths loses a substantial portion of its benefit. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will see that good food is not wasted by bad cooking and that it is cooked in an attractive form and served in an attractive and palatable manner.
The second point is this: I am much impressed with the simplicity, of which many Members have already spoken, of the second paragraph of the first Clause of the Bill, where it says:
When it is brought to the notice of an education authority…
My right hon. Friend has already told the House that this means when the necessity is brought to the notice of the authority by anyone. I hope that by some kind of propaganda method the Secretary of State for Scotland, in collaboration with the Minister of Labour, will make sure that this is brought to the notice of every woman interviewed and conscripted into service. I suggest, indeed, that he might consider designing a hand-bill which will be available in the Employment Exchanges to be handed out to each mother, to make it plain to her that she has a right to report to the education authority, not that her child is under-nourished, but that, because she is undertaking National Service, she is no longer able to feed her child in an adequate manner. That surely is a complete reply to the deplorable argument introduced at this stage by the hon. and gallant Member for Eastern Renfrew (Major Lloyd). I should like to compliment the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) on his able and well-balanced maiden speech, and may I suggest, very deferentially, that he should take his colleague from Eastern Renfrew into the tea-room and give him his copy of Benjamin Disraeli so that the light of Benjamin Disraeli quoted in support of this Measure may be used to illuminate the political darkness still existing in 1941.
Like other hon. Members, I should like to see the Clause giving power to collect the cost taken away. I take it that the Secretary of State for Scotland has inserted that Clause because this is a necessary war-time Measure and he was going out of his way to avoid political controversy at the present stage. I hope, however, that it is not going to be merely a war-time emergency Measure. I hope we shall see it as an essential peace-time establishment. Let me put it this way, in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Eastern Renfrew. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) told us that he remembered, some time about the beginning of this century, when Swedish drill was first introduced to Scottish schools—a distinct advance. In 1875 a gymnasium was not considered an essential part of education, but. we did not then go to the parents of the children and tell them that because the gymnasium was not an educa- tional feature we were therefore going to collect from them as much as they could afford to pay for their children's use of the gymnasium. As a gymnasium is an essential part of a school, so is a dining room, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will establish it in good time as a permanent feature. When that time comes I hope he will wipe out this Clause, to which we would object, but the necessity for which we understand and sympathise with at the present time.
My right hon. Friend has little cause for complaint at the way in which this Bill has been received by the House. There has, I think, been only one jarring note, and I will have something to say about that before I finish. So far as practically all the other hon. Members of the House are concerned, they accept this as a war Measure to deal with a war problem, and I, for one, sincerely hope that I shall live to see a Socialist Measure introduced. Despite the pride I have in this Measure, I shall have still greater pride when I see a Socialist Measure introduced into this House. This Government was formed to see the war successfully carried through, and this is part of our war effort and part of our war legislation.
Several questions have been put, and I shall try to deal with the points raised. First, let me congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) on the helpful speech that he made. I am sure that his further incursions into the Debates of this House will be equally useful. He put one or two points with which I shall try to deal. First of all, he put the point whether we would see to it that all authorities did their best to make this Bill a success. The same point was raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). No matter what kind of Bill you place on the Statute Book, it may be practically of no use if you have not effective and efficient administration. It is in administration that success lies so far as the Bill is concerned. Therefore, I can give the assurance that we are going to do everything possible to make the administration a success. Directed towards that end, we have already issued circulars to local authorities. I quote from one dated 19th
November. The point I am dealing with was raised by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and the hon. Member for Bridgeton. Paragraph 2 of that circular said:
The Secretary of State attaches the greatest importance to the scheme. He will not be satisfied unless the provision of solid meals to school children over the country as a whole is trebled by midsummer, 1942.
Just now only 7 per cent. are getting a solid meal in Scotland. We are aiming at 20 per cent. by midsummer. That will not be the end, as far as we are concerned. The maximum number have to get the maximum benefit of the Bill before the House. In that circular the Secretary of State went on to say that he intended to review progress, county by country, in six months' time, and that each authority will be called upon to submit by 1st June, 1942, a report showing the position reached in the area at mid-May in regard to the provision of meals to children. We intend to urge the local authorities to carry out to the very utmost the powers now being given to them and the duties being imposed upon them.
The second point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh was whether it would be competent to provide clothing and food for children under five who are attending nursery schools of any kind, and whether it would be possible under the Bill to make provision for children who are attending schools like nursery schools. I can assure him that the Bill applies to children attending any school, including nursery schools, whether under an education authority or under private management. I have already dealt with the point raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I entirely agree with some of the remarks he made.
Nursery schools are included. There is no limitation. In a previous Debate, the hon. Member pointed out that, because of war conditions, you would have children who could not attend school until the first entrance date after they had reached the age of five, instead of going on the last entrance date before they reached the age of five, and that, in the meantime, there was no provision for that child. But we are deeming, for the purposes of this Bill, that a child who reaches the age of five, although not in attendance at school, is entitled to milk. This Bill will provide for children attending any school. We are helping some of the poorer authorities by raising their grant and, as I have said, we shall not be satisfied unless we have raised the 7 per cent., which is the present figures of those who are receiving nourishment, to 20 per cent. by midsummer. That is only a step which we are taking, in the hope that the maximum number of children will benefit, and that we shall get the maximum co-operation from those responsible for the administration of the scheme. We agree that what has to be considered is not so much the cost of the meal as the real nutritional value. We will stress to local authorities that their aim must be the provision of meals of real nutritional value. To help the local authorities, my right hon. Friend is going to appoint a nutritional expert. Then we shall impress upon the local authorities the need for more training in domestic science. We shall train the girls, especially, during the last two years of school life to make good substantial meals and to get real value from the money expended. That brings me to the point made by the hon. Member opposite, that we should have standardisation. You cannot have standardisation in regard to either education or the provision of meals.
The last thing that I would have said is that we should have standardisation of feeding. The only thing that I said was that there was inequality among the authorities.
Local authorities are elected bodies and are responsible to the electorate. That is one of our forms of democracy. I am anxious to give a certain amount of freedom to those local authorities, always guiding them in the right direction. I wish I had been able to get the County of Fife to make the progress suggested by my hon. Friend the Member tor East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). I recall obstacles being placed in my way when I tried to help the school children. I happened to be one of the Members, referred to by the Secretary of State when he introduced this Bill, who belonged to the local authority to be surcharged to the extent of £69,000. We succeeded in feeding the children, and then some ratepayer took a case to the courts. In the constituency from which the hon. Member comes they ran candidates for the purpose of getting them on to the Fife education authority so as to make it impossible for us to continue to treat the children in the way we had done. But changes have come since those days. I remember the fight for the feeding of necessitous school children. I am proud that I have lived to see the day when these obstacles are to be removed. It is to be possible by this Bill to make it easy to feed necessitous children and to provide the first steps towards reaching the ideal, that it should be part and parcel of our educational system to provide at least one solid meal per day for all children attending school.
I am not prepared to accept what the hon. Gentleman suggests, but I will alter the phrase "solid meal" to a "well-balanced meal."
There is no reason why the local education authorities should not use the school management committees in the work of administration, but that will be a matter entirely for the education authorities responsible for working this Bill.
The hon. Gentleman says that they are to leave it to the education authorities. What about the education authorities that do not wish to encourage the activities of a school management committee?
My hon. Friend, I am sure, will appreciate that that is an entirely different question. Powers under the Act enable a local education authority, namely, the county council, to devolve certain duties upon the school management committee. There is no reason why those powers should not go to the school management committee, but we have no power to intervene under the existing law, if the local education authority do not see fit to take the school management committee into their full confidence. I have already indicated that we expect to get the whole-hearted co-operation of local education authorities in making the Bill a success. I assure the hon. and gallant Member for West Aberdeen (Major Thornton-Kemsley) that we are to have the whole-hearted cooperation of the Minister of Food, who is to do everything possible to enable us to make a success of the scheme that is before the House at the present time.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked who could draw the attention of education authorities to the fact that children could not benefit by education because of lack of food. I would have liked to have seen the school medical services more fully developed; that is one of the things that will have to be tackled in connection with the educational problems that will arise after the war, but parents can draw the attention of an education authority to the fact that a child could not benefit by education as the result of a lack of food. There is no limit to those who can draw such attention. It has been suggested that if everybody is responsible, nobody is responsible, but that was not my experience in dealing with necessitous school children in the county to which I belong. We were able to get over difficulties in 1921 and 1926 because we had local administrators who drew the attention of parents to the existing powers. We overcame all obstacles and were able to feed thousands of children during the industrial disputes. Parents were advised how to proceed.
The purpose of this Bill is to avoid reaching the stage of under-nourishment or malnutrition. Children will be fed, and there will be no malnutrition. Moreover, we will not be satisfied with 20 per cent. That is merely our aim in six months' time. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirk-wood) raised the question of a means test. There is no means test so far as this Bill is concerned: —
Where an education authority make provision for a child in pursuance of this section they shall be entitled to recover from the parent of the child the expense thereby incurred…
To feed the child first, to attend to his or her needs—that is the first duty. I want my hon. Friend to know that that is the duty imposed upon local authorities. Where a child is necessitous there is an obligation upon the local authority. Only after the child is fed can the local authority make inquiries into the means of the parents and their ability to pay. It will be for the education authority to determine whether parents can pay. We are not introducing a means test; it will be a matter for local authorities to decide whether they can morally and legally ask parents to pay.
Do I understand that a child must be fed first and that afterwards comes the discussion as to who must foot the bill? If so, that is only a little more than I read into the Bill. It is the means test in operation, and I want it removed.
I can give the hon. Member the assurance he wants. The Bill says:
When it is brought to the notice of an education authority that a child attending a school in their area is unable by reason of lack of food or of clothing to take full advantage of the education provided, the education authority shall make such provision for the child out of the education fund as they deem necessary.
It is only after that has been done that they will carry through the other part of the procedure laid down in the Bill of seeing whether the parents are able to meet these legitimate charges.
It is left to the local authorities. The hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) said that this is a Socialist Measure. I am proud to be able to stand at this Box and see even a small Measure of this kind brought forward to remove the many obstacles which have stood in the way of feeding school children. My first local election was in 1909, when I was fighting for the retention of Section 6 of the 1908 Act because it made it possible, despite all the obstacles, to feed necessitous school children. Practical experience showed me how difficult it was. One had to satisfy a reactionary school board and one had to call the parents. Sometimes I sat for three hours in the evenings seeing the parents of school children and hearing them say, "Yes, that application form
is signed by me—I have four children at school—I have no wages—I am unemployed—I am poor—I cannot feed my children." It was nauseating to me, and undoubtedly, it was degrading to the parents, but they were willing to do it for the sake of their children. All those obstacles of the past are now going. I do not claim that this is a Socialist Measure. It is a war-time Measure. We are calling mothers into the Services, into munitions-making, and into the factories. I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew expects us to get a full response to appeals for women to come into industry if we do not make the necessary provision for the children. Clause 1, Sub-section (1) gives only an optional power to the education authority. It says that:
An education authority may purchase and provide food for the purpose of supplying meals to children attending any school in their area both on days when the school meets and on other days.
This will enable the authorities to make for the children that provision which, in many instances, it is impossible for the mothers to make at the present time. Surely, the hon. and gallant Member has forgotten the bombed homes in Scotland and the conditions in which many of our children have to be looked after in the homes to which they have been evacuated. In many cases there are not adequate cooking facilities, and no matter what the mother may desire, it is absolutely impossible for her, with the facilities at her disposal, to provide a well-balanced and well-cooked meal.
The Under-Secretary is quoting instances in which I agree the Bill will be an advantage. I have not opposed the Bill in that respect. There are, however, many cases where it is entirely unnecessary to provide meals at school and where the parents are anxious and willing to continue to provide meals. The instances quoted by the hon. Gentleman are exceptional ones, and in those cases, naturally, I agree that the Bill is an advantage.
There is no compulsion upon parents to send children to receive these meals, and those parents who have the facilities and are willing to provide a well-balanced meal will be able to con- tinue doing so in future. The Bill does not compel them to send their children to receive these meals.
I very much resent the suggestion that the working people of this country want buckshee meals. The evidence is all to the contrary. In Glasgow, when the unemployment figures went down, the numbers of necessitous children receiving free meals also went down, which sufficiently proves that as wages were coming into the home to purchase meals for the children, they were not taking advantage of the free meals of the Glasgow Education Department. What applied in Glasgow applied equally in Dundee, Aberdeen and the other cities. The arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Renfrew are out of date. Even new-fashioned Tories are not prepared to subscribe to his old-fashioned Toryism. I can assure the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) that we will do everything possible to see that they are well cooked meals of real nutritional value, and it is proposed to appoint a nutritional expert for the purpose of supervising the whole scheme.
We have to use to the best advantage the equipment that we already have. I see no reason for providing two or three sets of equipment when it ought to be possible by organisation to utilise one set to full advantage. It is well-cooked meals that we want, of educational as well as of nutritional value. As regards the point raised by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), we are not repealing the powers that already exist for the authorities providing, and paying when the need arises, for medical service. But that is a point which can be gone into in Committee. With these, I hope, acceptable explanations I ask for a unanimous vote, and I trust that we shall get the assistance of the House in getting the Bill through as speedily as possible.