Education (Scotland) Bill.

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

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Mr. McNeil:

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.