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.