Education (Scotland) Bill.

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

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

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?