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 Joseph Westwood Mr Joseph Westwood , Stirling and Falkirk District of Burghs

My right hon. Friend has little cause for complaint at the way in which this Bill has been received by the House. There has, I think, been only one jarring note, and I will have something to say about that before I finish. So far as practically all the other hon. Members of the House are concerned, they accept this as a war Measure to deal with a war problem, and I, for one, sincerely hope that I shall live to see a Socialist Measure introduced. Despite the pride I have in this Measure, I shall have still greater pride when I see a Socialist Measure introduced into this House. This Government was formed to see the war successfully carried through, and this is part of our war effort and part of our war legislation.

Several questions have been put, and I shall try to deal with the points raised. First, let me congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) on the helpful speech that he made. I am sure that his further incursions into the Debates of this House will be equally useful. He put one or two points with which I shall try to deal. First of all, he put the point whether we would see to it that all authorities did their best to make this Bill a success. The same point was raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). No matter what kind of Bill you place on the Statute Book, it may be practically of no use if you have not effective and efficient administration. It is in administration that success lies so far as the Bill is concerned. Therefore, I can give the assurance that we are going to do everything possible to make the administration a success. Directed towards that end, we have already issued circulars to local authorities. I quote from one dated 19th November. The point I am dealing with was raised by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and the hon. Member for Bridgeton. Paragraph 2 of that circular said: The Secretary of State attaches the greatest importance to the scheme. He will not be satisfied unless the provision of solid meals to school children over the country as a whole is trebled by midsummer, 1942. Just now only 7 per cent. are getting a solid meal in Scotland. We are aiming at 20 per cent. by midsummer. That will not be the end, as far as we are concerned. The maximum number have to get the maximum benefit of the Bill before the House. In that circular the Secretary of State went on to say that he intended to review progress, county by country, in six months' time, and that each authority will be called upon to submit by 1st June, 1942, a report showing the position reached in the area at mid-May in regard to the provision of meals to children. We intend to urge the local authorities to carry out to the very utmost the powers now being given to them and the duties being imposed upon them.

The second point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh was whether it would be competent to provide clothing and food for children under five who are attending nursery schools of any kind, and whether it would be possible under the Bill to make provision for children who are attending schools like nursery schools. I can assure him that the Bill applies to children attending any school, including nursery schools, whether under an education authority or under private management. I have already dealt with the point raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I entirely agree with some of the remarks he made.