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 Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

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.