asked the Minister of Health why, in view of the Government's policy of properly caring for young children whose mothers volunteered for war work, it is stated in Circular 2535, dated 5th December, that it is hoped that most of the women concerned will be able to make private arrangements with friends and relatives for the care of their children; and why it is suggested that the local authorities should make arrangements for the care of children only in cases where private unsupervised arrangements can not be made?
The policy of the Government is to make use of all methods which are suit able to the needs of the children. The provision of war-time nurseries is an important method. They are being set up as quickly as labour and materials permit, and we shall provide as many as are needed, in the light of the estimates for each area made by the Department of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, and taking account not only of present but of future requirements. A number of mothers prefer to make their own arrangements with relatives and friends, and the local authorities are therefore providing first for children for whom no other adequate provision exists.
Is the Minister aware that the private unsupervised arrangements are unsatisfactory, that they break down on the slightest pretext, and are responsible for a great amount of absenteeism among women engaged in war work?
If the hon. Lady has details of a particular case I shall be glad to have them. The fact is that we may pro vide the nurseries, but it is the mothers who decide whether they shall use them or not.
It is clear that the policy of the Government is in favour of war nurseries, but the Government also recognise that, as the demand for the labour of married women develops, we shall want all methods to be used.
In view of the doubts and criticisms in all parts of the country regarding the circular referred to in the Question, will the Minister arrange for a Debate at an early date so that we may re-examine the whole problem and reassure the nation that we will not do anything damaging, if we can help it?
asked the Minister of Health (1) what is the number of wartime nurseries in existence and the number of children accommodated in those already in operation, and the number of wartime nurseries and the number of children to be accommodated in them, which have been sanctioned but are not yet in operation, in the following places: municipal and county boroughs in the county of Middlesex, municipal and county boroughs in the county of Kent, Reading, Oxford, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, Bridgwater, Bedford, Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, Northants County Council, Grantham, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Liverpool, Wigan, Crewe and Newcastle-upon-Tyne;
(2) whether he will give the list of places to which the Ministry of Health Circular No. 2535 has been sent for action?
It would not be in the public interest to publish these figures, in view of their connection with the location of war industry. I am having a map prepared in the Ministry which I shall be glad to give hon. Members who are interested an opportunity of seeing.
I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the regional advisers on child care whom I have appointed in consultation with the President of the Board of Education. They will be concerned with the development of measures to be taken by Maternity and Child Welfare Authorities and local education authorities for the care of the children of women in employment and will work in collaboration with my regional staffs and His Majesty's inspectors of schools.