Education (Scotland) Bill.

Part of Supplementary Vote of Credit, 1941. – in the House of Commons on 16th December 1941.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , Kincardine and Western

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.