Welfare Foods

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th April 1961.

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10.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Welfare Foods (Great Britain) Amendment Order, 1961 (S.I. 1961, No. 352), dated 27th February, 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd March, be annulled. I think it might be for the convenience of the House, Mr. Speaker, if we could also discuss the second Prayer That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Welfare Foods (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Order, 1961 (S.I., 1961, No. 367), dated 2nd March, 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 3rd March, be annulled. The two Prayers cover the same subject. The second one deals with Northern Ireland, and it might give an opportunity for those hon. Members opposite who represent Northern Ireland constituencies to let the House into their confidence.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

If that is convenient to the House, they can be discussed together. If, however, they are taken to a Division, they will have to be put separately.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are discussing the abolition of the subsidy on welfare foods for mothers and babies just a couple of days after the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Surtax concessions which put £1,775 a year into the pockets of those happy ones in what might be called the Dr. Beeching income bracket. This coincidence has one advantage. It shows up with stark clarity for all to see, or for those who care to look, the social and economic priorities of the Government.

This mean and miserable Order entirely removes the element of subsidy from three welfare foods which in future will be available only at economic cost. The concentrated orange juice which used to cost 5d. per bottle will now cost 1s. 6d. per bottle, an increase of approximately 250 per cent. Cod liver oil, which used to be free, will in future cost 1s. per bottle, and vitamin A and D tablets, which also used to be free, will in future cost 6d. per packet.

As the Minister of Health has reminded us, the welfare food scheme was introduced during the Second World War. As the right hon. Gentleman said, it was originally intended as a wartime expedient. The Minister talked about siege conditions. It was intended to supplement the inevitable deficiencies in the wartime diet. The scheme was, however, continued after the war by the Labour Government as a deliberate act of policy, because it had already shown its value in the manifest improvement in our children's health.

The scheme has never been particularly expensive. Indeed, its abolition will result in a saving to the Government of only £1½ million in a full year. Despite this, the Government and their predecessors have been steadily whittling away at the scheme for a long time. Their record makes dismal reading. They made a change in the arrangements for distribution. When the Ministry of Food offices were closed and the new arrangements made it more difficult for mothers to collect their tokens and welfare foods, there was not unnaturally a sharp drop in the uptake of welfare foods. Nothing was done by the Government to counteract this. They were entirely complacent about it because, as the proportion of those entitled to take those foods fell, the Government saved money.

In 1956, the Government brought in an Order which cut out the supply of orange juice for children between two and five years old. The following year they increased the price of National dried milk, which also comes under the welfare scheme, by about 60 per cent., and now the scheme—apart from milk—has been brought to an end. I say it has been brought to an end because the subsidy is the basic element in this scheme, and the subsidy is totally eliminated under this Order against which we are praying tonight.

The Minister has assured us in past debates that despite these increased Health Service charges—and no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will tell us again tonight—arrangements have been made with the National Assistance Board which will take care of those who cannot afford an economic price for these vitamin supplements. I do not want to weary the House by reiterating once again the arguments which I and many of my hon. Friends have put forward as to why the National Assistance Board is a totally unsuitable system for mitigating hardship—hardship which arises out of these Health Service charges generally.

No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will say that the number of mothers taking welfare foods has been, and still is, steadily increasing. I understand, however, that well under 50 per cent. of those who are entitled to welfare foods are, in fact, taking them. Nevertheless, there are still 22 million bottles of orange juice being distributed annually, 2¼ million bottles of cod liver oil, and 2¼ million packets of vitamin tablets.

It must be remembered that the scheme is not being fully utilised, and I should have thought that that would have been deplored. After all, who are the mothers not taking up their allocation? They are not the poor mothers, because under existing prices, before this Order comes into operation, almost anyone can afford to take welfare foods. The mothers not taking them include the more feckless and ignorant type of mother, the woman whose children need these vitamin supplements the most. They are the mothers who give their children unsuitable foods, who feed them on carbohydrates, canned goods, and who give their children a diet almost certainly deficient in vitamins.

This is the sort of situation which should have stirred the Minister to action—not the kind of action envisaged in this Order—but the action of publicising the scheme and of using the organs of propaganda at the command of the Government to persuade these mothers to take advantage of the scheme and to ram home to them the importance of these items which are to the benefit of their children's health. But not this Minister. No; that would put the bill up. This Minister has used this low take-up as one of his arguments for getting rid of the scheme altogether. We are now left with the welfare milk as the only subsidised welfare food. Similar arguments could be adduced for jettisoning the welfare milk scheme, too. Is this the Minister's intention? Is this what the Government will do next? If so, we should like to know how soon.

What other excuses have we had for the elimination of this subsidy? The Minister has told us in other connections that people are now so well off Chat they can afford to pay the full price. Whether they can or not, my guess is that very few of them will. I should like to quote what the largest local health authority has said about the Minister's proposal. This is an extract from the report of the Public Health Committee of the London County Council, which appeared on its agenda on 14th March: We are greatly concerned about the possible effect of these changes on the personal health services for which we are responsible. The rise in the cost of welfare foods will make preventive medicine more expensive for the individual and will tend to diminish in the minds of the public the importance of preventing ill health. This is a very important aspect. One undoubted effect of the Government's decision will be that it will promote a widespread assumption that these welfare foods, these vitamin supplements, are either unnecessary or ineffective, or both. Because the Government have abandoned the scheme, people, even if they can afford to buy them, will be less inclined to do so. They will say "Otherwise, why have the Government chucked up the scheme?"

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will give us the Government's views. Let her tell us what the Minister thinks. Does he believe that these welfare foods make a negligible contribution or no contribution at all to children's health, or does he agree that they have made a major contribution in the past? If he thinks they have made no contribution, then we can ask why the scheme has been continued during the last ten years. On the other hand, if he believes that they have made a contribution, how can he possibly justify abandoning the scheme now?

Most nutrition experts believe that these welfare foods have paid handsome dividends in terms of our children's health. One has only to read what Lord Boyd-Orr has said about this. He has quoted the case of Glasgow. In Glasgow the average 14-year-old girl is now between two and three inches taller and more than a stone heavier than the average 14-year-old girl in Glasgow before the war. That is a dramatic improvement. Who could deny that our children are far healthier today than they were before the war or that they are far healthier than the children in most other countries—far healthier, for example, than American children? Is this improvement worth risking? Is it worth risking the reversal of this trend, even if the risk is a minimal one, for the sake of £1½ million a year?

What are the actual medical purposes of these vitamin supplements? Orange juice combats scurvy, among other things. In 1957 the Committee on welfare foods, under Lord Cohen's chairmanship, which the Government set up, reported that scurvy still existed in this country, particularly among babies around one year old, and for that reason it recommended quite firmly the continuance of this scheme for distributing orange juice for babies under two years old. Cod liver oil has a number of benefits, but in particular it contains vitamin D, which prevents rickets. Rickets is happily a rare disease in this country today, but in Canada, which also has a high standard of living but no welfare food scheme, some clinical rickets is quite common. Can we be sure that this sort of thing will not make its reappearance in this country? Can we be certain?

There are other benefits of cod liver oil. Apart from its general nutritional value, it is very good for the health of teeth, and there are many dentists who believe that a recent deterioration in the standard of children's teeth in this country has some connection with the reduced take-up of cod liver oil amongst mothers. Certainly it is quite remarkable that those children who were born during the war when this scheme was introduced possess most excellent teeth.

So far I have been attacking the substance of this Order. I should like to voice one or two complaints that I have about the manner of its introduction. My first complaint concerns the drafting of the Order itself. I think that even those of us who are fairly well accustomed to the tortuous verbiage of Statutory Instruments would agree that this Order is disgracefully complex. If one looks at it, apart from the backward glance that it makes at the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939 and the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Act, 1959, it modifies very substantially what it calls the principal Order, the principal Order being the Welfare Foods (Great Britain) Order, 1954.

One finds that that Order has already been amended five times by five successive different Statutory Instruments and the result is utter chaos and confusion. I defy any ordinary person to discover within any reasonable time what the precise effect of this Order is, even with the dubious help of the Explanatory Note at the end. The Minister has on more than one occasion professed his devotion to clarity of expression and to the virtues of straightforward, simple English. He really ought to have done better on this occasion. I am sure it would have been better to wipe the slate clean, repeal the earlier Orders altogether and start afresh.

My second complaint arises very probably out of the first. As the House knows, we have a Statutory Instruments Committee which, as a matter of routine, examines the form of all Statutory Instruments laid before this House. The Statutory Instruments Committee has taken the unusual course of making a special report about this Order expressing a view that certain provisions in the Order are ultra vires. The matter is very technical and I will not attempt to explain it here. I hope that if he is called to speak, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), who is Chairman of the Statutory Instruments Committee, might put the matter in more detail. The short point is that in the Committee's view this Order is invalid, and I must say I hope the Committee is right.

My other complaint concerns the instructions that the Minister and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance gave about the issue of vitamin tokens. Up to now, mothers have been able to draw their tokens and their welfare foods more or less as was convenient to them, a whole book at once. This was a great convenience. But within days of the right hon. Gentleman's announcement on 1st February, long before this Order was laid before Parliament or even made, instructions were sent out to the issuing offices not to issue any tokens bearing a date after 1st June. This, I think, was an incredibly mean and niggling economy, and I should like to know how much money was saved by it. Whatever it was, it would hardly compare with the irritation which it must have caused.

I would only say, in conclusion, that this was a first-rate scheme before the Tory mice began to get at it. I think very few people would deny that in providing these welfare foods free or at a very nominal cost successive Governments have in the past helped substantially towards promoting the health of our children. If it be true, it is unforgivable for the Minister to strangle this scheme now, but this is all of a pattern with the other increases in Health Service charges and contributions—the right hon. Gentleman's combined operation on 1st February.

It is not only a question of the saving of money, although £65 million a year, of course, must be a very attractive prospect, especially to a former Financial Secretary to the Treasury. More than this, these decisions reflect the ideology of the party opposite and of the right hon. Gentleman in particular. They just do not believe in subsidies to consumers, whatever the social purposes of those subsidies. They do not mind subsidies to the farmer or perhaps to Gurnard White Star, but not consumer subsidies. They believe that if someone can just about afford something they should be required to pay for it and, if not, they can try the National Assistance Board, and that if mothers happen to neglect their children's health it is their own affair and has nothing to do with the Minister. I hope the Minister is proud of having by his combined operation assisted the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make his £85 million Surtax hand-out. We do not think that this is so much a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul as of robbing the babies to pay the Beechings.

10.23 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

I wish most strongly to support the plea put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). Of all the economies in the wrong direction of which this Government have been guilty of making, I re- gard this as the most unworthy and meanest of all.

My hon. Friend has pointed out that although it is perfectly true that the number of mothers who have been drawing the welfare foods over the past few years has diminished, nevertheless the number who still do so is very substantial indeed and far from being reduced ought to be increased. The figures read out by my hon. Friend are very impressive. I realise, as do other hon. Members from their experiences in their constituencies and elsewhere, that the numbers have somewhat declined, but when one finds that more than 22 million bottles of orange juice are consumed it will be seen that this scheme cannot be brushed aside as of no significance. Translated into terms of health and well-being, it is a very considerable contribution. That figure is for 1959. There was a fairly recent Parliamentary Question, to which the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary replied, which showed that in the first part of last year, up to the end of September, which is the latest period for which figures are available, it was running at a higher rate still. Therefore, there has not been a recent decline in the uptake of orange juice, in particular.

I should like to find out just how much research the Ministry has done before bringing in this Order. What information have the Government got? What can be laid before us on the medical and nutritional side of this matter? Do they suggest that vitamins do not matter? We all know that there are phases in medical opinion—doctors agree hardly more than lawyers or economists—but I have not yet heard that people now say that vitamins do not matter at all.

I have always understood that vitamins are of great importance to nursing and expectant mothers as well as to small children. They are important for general health, and they are important for certain specific ailments. They are particularly important, so we are told, as my hon. Friend rightly emphasised, for the development of teeth and for the preservation of the teeth of the expectant and nursing mother. Anyone having any experience whatever in this matter will know that one weakness constantly found in nursing mothers is dental decay. What is the connection between orange juice and caries?

What calculation has our calculating Minister made on this important issue? How much will he lose on dentists that he will save on orange juice, cod liver oil or cod liver oil substitute? What is the correlation? The right hon. Gentleman has an ingenious mind. Presumably, he has worked it all out. Constantly in the House we hear complaints about the teeth of young children at school. We all know that the school dental service is in an abysmally poor state. The number of school children not receiving dental attention is scandalously large. These things being so, we are entitled to ask the Minister to answer our questions. I am sorry if I sound angry, but I feel furiously indignant about what is being done.

What thought has the Minister given to the connection between children's teeth and what he is doing in this Order? What calculations has he made? What research has he undertaken? If he has not done any, what business has he to come to the House with such an Order? We rarely lose our tempers in the House of Commons, but, as I say, I am thoroughly indignant. As my hon. Friend said, quite rightly, far from doing something which is liable at any rate to diminish the use of these vitamin supplements we ought to be going all out in a campaign to ensure that every mother and every child in the country uses them.

I understand that the Ministry calculates that there will be no diminution, or no further diminution. It has not been campaigning to increase the uptake, as it calls it in its rather inelegant language, and I gather from statements in the Press that it calculates that there will be no diminution. On what basis is that calculation made? It would be interesting to know. Apparently, it is supposed that someone now paying 5d. will be quite prepared to pay 1s. 6d. I can only say that I shall be surprised if there is not a diminution when, of course, there ought to be an increase.

Let us suppose that there is a diminution. What is to happen? Article 4 of the Order, in paragraph 3 (2, b) of the substituted provision, refers to the Minister charging sufficient to cover the approximate costs incurred by him in acquiring, storing, treating and distributing the food". What happens if there is a diminution in the consumption of orange juice, for example, and that which is stored deteriorates? A few years ago, we had one scandal about orange juice. Presumably, if the Minister finds that the orange juice is not consumed and his stocks deteriorate, he will not distribute that which is below standard. We can hardly expect otherwise. Will he cover the costs of the orange juice he has to throw away in the price charged to the mothers? We are entitled to know whether the part of the Order which speaks of acquiring, storing, treating and distributing the food covers possible loss through deterioration, and, if it does not, whether the Exchequer will generously cover the expense. I think myself that this matter of possible deterioration is quite an important point. After all, vitamins cannot be stored indefinitely.

One of the other dangers which I think is very likely to ensue from this action and the general inactivity of the Government in this matter is that we shall have parents getting orange preparations which have little or no vitamin content at all. Again, we had some time past in the House discussions on the various kinds of orange drink or so-called orange drink which have negligible or almost negligible vitamin content but which mothers may buy rather than pay 1s. 6d. for a bottle of orange juice. A mother may say, "I will buy little Johnnie a bottle of orange drink"—brought round by the milkman or in one of the tinkle-bell vans, and believe she is doing just as well for her child as paying 1s. 6d. for the welfare food.

This is a very distinct danger, because, as my hon. Friend has so rightly said, the very people we are most concerned about are the ignorant and feckless people whose children are likely not to be very intelligently cared for. After all, the mothers who are represented by those 22 million bottles are on the whole mothers who do take some care and pay some attention. Therefore, it is very likely indeed that some of them, when brought up against this price increase of quite considerable proportions, may take what they consider a reasonable substitute—perhaps not quite so good, but they will not know all the ins and outs of the matter nutritionally. I think this is a serious possibility.

I should like to know what the Minister is going to do by way of further health education in this matter, because I think he is laying himself open to the charge of very seriously neglecting child health in this country if he does not do something about that—and that, incidentally, if he does it properly will probably cost him quite a lot and all that he will save by this proposal.

What consultation has there been with the Colonial Office about this? Orange juice, after all, is a citrus product. We all know the difficulty we have had over the economy of the Caribbean, the West Indies, where citrus fruits are one of the main products. Are we to pay out of one pocket for what we are saving in the other?

We have complaints from hon. Members opposite about the immigration from the West Indies into this country when we know that one of the main reasons for that is economic. I do not object to that immigration personally, but, on the other hand, I sympathise with them in having to leave their own homes, very much warmer homes than the ones they come to here as a rule. They come because of economic difficulty in their own countries.

The purchase by this country over the years of citrus products from the West Indies has been an important contribution to the well-being of those countries. If the Minister is right and there will be no diminution of consumption of orange juice, one cannot complain, but if, as many of us believe, there is likely to be a serious diminution, if other steps are not taken, then this is something we are entitled to ask about. By putting up the price and reducing consumption, are we not thereby striking a blow at the economic prosperity of the West Indies for which we still have some responsibility? I repeat, and I should like to know specifically, has this or has this not been discussed with the Colonial Secretary? I think the House is entitled to be told.

This Order covers the orange juice, cod liver oil and the tablets, and if the consumption of the cod liver oil is somewhat diminished, that of the tablets is somewhat increased. As someone who detests cod liver oil, I sympathise with anyone who prefers the tablets. But it does not say anything about milk.

There was a leak in the Press some couple of months back to the effect that the Minister was considering milk—we would be surprised if he was not—but that he had found that the Minister of Agriculture was too much for him—because citrus fruits, of course, are produced in other countries, milk is produced here. Milk involves votes, citrus fruit does not. Therefore, we do not do anything as yet about milk because the farmers' lobby is stronger than the mothers' lobby.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

Farmers get the subsidy and mothers have had the subsidy taken away.

Photo of Mr William Yates Mr William Yates , The Wrekin

What about the farmer's wife?

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

She enjoys what the farmer gets as a rule. Farmers get the subsidy and milk is likely to be safeguarded not out of regard for the mothers and children but the farmers. Whether there has been a leak or not, at any rate we have good grounds for thinking it has been considered, although it has been decided not to go ahead with it. That instructive organ Crossbow, which has been causing so much trouble to the Leader of the House recently, has also contained suggestions from the intellectual left wing of the Conservative Party, to which the Minister once belonged, that a charge of 3d. could be made, presumably per half-pint, for school milk.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

Nothing like it.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

And suggestions for doubling the price of school meals. The signature of the Minister of Agriculture is attached to the Order and milk is mentioned in it several times, so presumably we are perfectly in order to discuss milk. Therefore, on the principle of the matter, it seems clear that the Government would like to scrap the lot but, because of the difficulty over farmers, they have had to stay their hand on milk.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

On a point of order. May we have your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on whether we can discuss agricultural subsidies and liquid milk on this Order?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I was waiting to see how the hon. Lady was tying it up to the subject matter. I confess that I have not followed her so far. Dried milk can be discussed, but the fact that the name of the Minister of Agriculture appears on the Order does not mean that hon. Members are entitled to discuss in this debate every matter for which he is responsible.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

Further to that point of order. I hope that you will reconsider your Ruling about liquid milk, Mr. Speaker. If you study the Report of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, you will find that the point on which the Committee held the Order to be invalid relates to liquid milk and that milk is referred to in more than one place in the Order. I submit with respect, therefore, that discussion of liquid milk should be in order.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I dare say that the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) will enlighten me as she goes along. I refrain from ruling until I know something about the matter.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

The definition of welfare food in the Order says that "'welfare foods' means milk…."[HON. MEMBERS: "Dried milk."] It goes on to mention dried milk and so on. I think, therefore, with the utmost respect, that we should be allowed to discuss it.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

Milk means liquid milk and I agree with the hon. Lady.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was coming to the end of my argument but not of my indignation on this matter. I do not intend to pursue the general question of the nutrition of school children. We are concerned primarily with the mothers and young babies, the children up to two years of age. I hope that every hon. Member, of whichever sex, will recognise that the preservation of the health of mothers is something for which we should take full responsibility. Is it worth the money saved for the Government to take this action? Our whole attitude to this matter should be directed not towards doing something which will almost certainly diminish the use of these very valuable supplements, but towards a crusade, led by the Minister, for the use of a far higher quantity of them.

10.40 p.m.

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

The debate so far reminds me of my last election campaign, which I think I won simply by saying that the Labour Party was an out-of-date party living in the past with its old-fashioned ideas. I merely mention, as an extenuating circumstance, that it is not alone in that. It is the tendency among sociologists to fight battles, like the generals, in terms of a previous generation. That is largely responsible for the well-meaning nonsense we have heard tonight and on other occasions about this matter.

I cannot do better than to read what the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said in the introductory debate to this series of discussions on the National Health Service. I am sorry that he is not following the thing right through—he is not here at present—because of the new expertise he is acquiring in health matters. He said: If he wants to avoid waste, a sensible way is to have some preventive medicine so that people do not get rickets and so that kids do not grow up spindly and so that they grow up strong and healthy. Now, we are taking these things out of their reach."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1961; Vol. 510, c. 422.] It was at that stage that I challenged him to debate with me in Carlisle on this subject, and I am looking forward to that meeting. We read similar statements in the Press. There was a letter in the Evening News which I shall also read in extenuating circumstances of the speeches we have heard tonight. It says: As a 21-year-old mother of a baby of five months, and expecting another, may I say how disgusted and angered I am at the increased Health Service charges.Many mothers will refuse to pay for orange juice, cod liver oil and vitamin tablets, and the result will be an alarming rise in malnutrition and deformities. No doubt many people do think that as a result of social propaganda and out-of-date social thinking. I hope that as a result of what I want to say from personal experience I can at least disabuse some of them of their more extreme ideas and statements. Of course, these welfare and supplementary foods were necessary in the days of 50 years ago, when we had an under-nourished slum population on low wages. They were necessary in wartime.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

We did not have welfare foods 50 years ago. Will the hon. Gentleman say why he makes references to 50 years ago?

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

I said that they were necessary then, just as they were necessary in wartime. I did not say that we had them 50 years ago.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

Would not the hon. Gentleman admit that our acknowledgment of these auxiliary food factors came into existence only when we discovered what they were needed for and what they did.? To suggest that we realised this 50 years ago is quite wrong.

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

I was not saying that. I was saying that the thinking of hon. Members opposite is in the terms of 50 years ago. We are in a very different set of circumstances today.

In his introductory speech the hon. Member quoted these terrific figures about 2½ million bottles of cod liver oil, 22 million bottles of orange juice and 2¼ million bottles of vitamins. They are large figures, but I would ask, "Are these things really necessary in existing circumstances?" Today the circumstances are quite different. We are in a time of general prosperity. For many years it has been my view that they were not necessary to the extent put forward by hon. Members opposite and as suggested in the quotations that I have already made.

I do not have ideas about subjects without being ready to carry them out. I have a family of my own, and I have exposed my family to this terrible risk of not having welfare foods when they were brought up. Perhaps the hon. Member will include my wife and myself among the feckless and ignorant types of whom he has been talking. I was, however, conscious that there is a medical condition of hypervitaminosis, which is a condition of having too many vitamins rather than too few. It is also an undoubted fact that cod liver oil is not very good for a baby's digestion, any more than it is for an adult's.

These thoughts were very much in my mind and in my wife's mind, and we took this terrible risk of bringing up a family of two children without their having any bottle orange juice or cod liver oil, and without either of them yet having touched a vitamin tablet.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

I follow the hon. Member's argument, but can he tell me what he or his wife—whoever does the marketing—spends on fruit and vegetables every week?

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

Quite a lot—and the hon. Lady has made my point for me. Her speech seemed to indicate that there was no such thing as a fresh orange in the shops, but fresh oranges are within the reach of the average family. They are not enormously expensive. We do not need a lot of orange juice in order to supply the necessary amount of vitamins. That is basic knowledge, as professional hon. Members opposite will agree. A certain amount of vitamins is needed, and without that amount various diseases are contracted. All I am saying is that that small amount is contained in the normal diet.

I shall quote a statistic from my family concerning my son. who is now aged 13, at which age he can be called the end result of the experiment. His height and weight are 65½ in. and 119 lb., whereas the average height and weight of the boys at his school, whose figures are slightly larger than the average for the City of Sheffield, which are the only other statistics I could get, are 62 in. and 102½ lb. He thus appears to be 3½ in. taller and no less than 16½ lb. heavier than the average of the boys at his school.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

I am sure that the House is finding the hon. Member's speech entertaining, but the welfare food scheme might be unnecessary if the entire population had the hon. Member's income and medical knowledge. Unfortunately, perhaps, they have not.

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

No medical knowledge is needed to buy oranges in the shops or even extra fruit. I am glad to say that my children have been relieved of the necessity of having my medical knowledge applied to them, and perhaps that is just as well. The medical knowledge such as I have is being imparted tonight for the nation to benefit. They are lucky people. That is to say, they should buy oranges in the shops, these are quite sufficient and one does not need the enormous income of a Member of Parliament to be able to buy them. That is a complete supplement to the normal diet from babyhood. I hope that if what I have said has done nothing else I have dispelled some of the awful nightmares and terrors that have been suspended over us in this House tonight at the withdrawal of these welfare foods.

There are still people below a certain level of income who are provided for by special arrangements and who doubtless need these supplements, but by and large the average families earn incomes with which they can afford to feed their children properly. They should be able to take upon themselves the simple responsibility of feeding their families properly, and in that case they do not need this kind of social welfare.

10.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Redhead Mr Edward Redhead , Walthamstow West

I am sure that the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. Johnson) will forgive me if I do not follow the course of his argument. In the first place, I am not competent to argue upon medical grounds, and I realise that I am not an equal opponent to the hon. Member in that respect. I would only say in passing that his opinion is not one that I find echoed by the medical officers for the borough in which my constituency lies and who have to deal, not with people of the standard of living which the hon. Member obviously enjoys, but with people of much humbler means.

Although I subscribe to all that has so far been said by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) in condemnation of these Orders, I want to refer to one aspect which was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North as a matter of specific complaint. I anticipate that the Parliamentary Secretary, when she replies, will echo the arguments with which we have become all too familiar from her right hon. Friend the Minister in justification of these Orders. I have no doubt that the hon. Lady will seek indignantly to repudiate the suggestion that there is anything mean or paltry behind these Measures.

I want, however, to refer to a matter which I believe reveals and typifies the whole attitude and approach of the right hon. Gentleman to these matters and, indeed, to the whole range of the Health Service charges for which he has been responsible of recent date. I refer to the manner in which he sought to anticipate these Orders in their operation before they were even made and before they were laid before the House. I refer to his over-eager desire to press these proposals forward and not miss a chance of extracting even the last 1s. from an expectant mother, by detailed instructions which he rushed out on the very day when he first announced his intentions in this regard in the House—namely 1st February. It was an effort to ensure that not one expectant mother should get away with even a paltry 1s. 1d. on a bottle of orange juice or 6d. on a packet of vitamin tablets.

I can understand the right hon. Gentleman's later reluctance to admit this. I had hoped that his reluctance, as it was revealed in answer to a subsequent Question, indicated that he had, on reflection, some degree of shame about this operation. His later persistence, however, has convinced me that I had better disabuse my mind of any such charitable thought.

Let me explain in detail what the Minister did in this regard, because I believe it illustrates the whole attitude of mind that he has brought to bear on this matter. Hitherto expectant mothers have been entitled to obtain orange juice for the nominal price of 5d. a bottle. It is now proposed that they shall pay the cost price of 1s. 6d. They have also been entitled to a free issue of cod liver oil or vitamin tablets. For this they are now to be charged 1s. in the one case and 6d. a packet in the other.

At the outset of her pregnancy an expectant mother has been entitled to draw from the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, acting as agents for the Minister of Health, a token book—No. FW 40, I think—entitling her to exercise this entitlement on production of the appropriate tokens at the antenatal clinic or other distribution centre run by the local health authority from which she has been accustomed to obtain these items. The number of tokens in each book was sufficient to ensure entitlement during the whole period of pregnancy on the following scale: for orange juice, at the rate of—I emphasise "at the rate of"—one bottle for every nine days, and for cod liver oil and vitamin tablets, at the rate of one bottle per month for the former or one packet every six weeks for the latter.

These tokens were not dated. There was, therefore, no obligation or requirement that they should be used within a specific week or month. It followed, therefore, that it was always possible, and, indeed, in practice it was acknowledged to be permissible, for an expectant mother to use her tokens at any time in any quantity she might desire. That was a reasonable and useful facility. It enabled the expectant mother to draw upon her allowance up to the maximum permitted within that scale at any time when she anticipated going away for a holiday or respite or was for any other reason unable to collect her supply regularly.

With the announcement by the Minister that prices were to be increased, or newly imposed in respect of some of these items, as from 1st June, I acknowledge that it was possible that some already possessed of such token books before the announcement might—quite naturally, I think; after all, there are some wonderful precedents for this in the area of taxation—seek to exercise their entitlement up to the full allocation permitted by the tokens in their books, or to the extent that they could, before the new charges became operative. But the Minister, with the foresight and astuteness to recognise the possible guile of the expectant mother who would see these possibilities before her, was not to be thwarted in his determination to extract the utmost from his proposed new charges. First of all, he caused the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to extract from any token books issued after 1st February sufficient tokens to ensure that what was left in the book for the expectant mother was no more than the absolute strict minimum of her entitlement at the defined rate, to which I have already referred, up to the end of May.

I put down a Question on this to the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance on 27th February. I asked him what recent instructions had been sent to his local offices concerning the issue of welfare food coupons to expectant mothers. The Minister answered with complete candour in the following terms: Following the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on 1st February, 1961. concerning welfare foods, local offices of my Department were instructed that vitamin token books issued in future should not contain tokens giving entitlement beyond 31st May, 1961."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1176.] The Minister did not acknowledge, in reply to subsequent supplementaries, that there was anything improper or even mean in this over-eager desire of his right hon. Gentleman to anticipate Orders which had not been seen by that date by this House. But at least I will acknowledge that he replied candidly and forthrightly, and it is worthy of note, in view of what I am going to say later, that he did not seek to shelter behind his right hon. Friend who nevertheless must have been the instigator of those instructions.

I then put down another Question to the Minister of Health, and I asked him what recent instructions he had given to the local health authorities concerning the issue of welfare food coupons to expectant mothers and what consultations he had had on this matter with the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. To this the right hon. Gentleman replied on 13th March. His answer is worthy of note: Welfare food coupons are issued on behalf of my Department through the local offices of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and not by the local health authorities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1961; Vol. 636. c. 960.] It was to be inferred from that reply—and I suggest that it was intended to be inferred—that the Minister of Health had no responsibility for the issue of any instructions on this matter and had, in fact, not issued such instructions. I can only describe this reply as thoroughly evasive, foolishly evasive, to use no more severe terms about it. At the time when I put that Question to the Minister on 13th March I had in my possession, as I have now, a copy of the instructions which the Minister of Health issued to local health authorities on the very day that he made his first announcement in this House on 1st February.

Contrary to the inference to be drawn from his reply to me on 13th March, he issued these long, complicated and detailed instructions on 1st February to local health authorities telling them what the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance was doing about the issue of new books, and going on to instruct the health authorities in respect of those expectant mothers who were already in possession of token books that they were henceforth to be restricted in the issue of orange juice, cod liver oil and vitamin tablets to not more than 14 bottles of orange juice before the end of May and not more than 6 bottles of cod liver oil or 3 packets of vitamin tablets in the same period. There followed two pages of regulations and suggestions as to how these provisions were to be carried out, very detailed, exceedingly well thought out, the result, obviously, of the occupation of some civil servant for some time before the House became aware of the fact that the Minister had intentions of this kind.

In all seriousness, I ask: were all these complicated, cumbersome instructions necessary, or, indeed, justified? Do they not typify the utmost spirit of meanness which, I suggest, has been the hallmark of this Minister in all the proposals he has brought forward in this connection? After all, the most that the Minister could possibly have saved in respect of any one of the very few expectant mothers who would have been possessed of a full token book at the time the instructions were issued I calculate at about 23s. Was it really necessary, and does that saving compare with what must have been the considerable administrative cost in concocting these instructions, issuing them to all the local health authorities throughout the country which, in their turn, had to send them down to the distribution centres where worried clerks and receptionists would have to busy themselves trying to work out all the complications? I know for a fact that they were busy trying to work out just what the Minister meant and intended. Surely, the cost of the operation completely outweighed anything that the Minister might have saved by this method of paltry economy.

In any case, I will tell the right hon. Gentleman—if he does not already know—that the instructions could not possibly be fully effective. In the first instance, it took weeks for the said instructions to trickle down from the local health authorities to the distribution centres. I know of a place where it was five weeks before those who were responsible for carrying them out heard that the instructions existed at all. They heard that the Ministry of Pensions was doing something merely by reason of the presentation by an expectant mother of a book which had already been truncated of several of its coupons. That was the first information they had, by which time, of course, many of the expectant mothers would have had the opportunity, if they were imbued with such a desire, to forestall the Minister in his proposed increased charges in that respect.

Secondly, there could be no adequate verification whatever that the instructions had been carried out, for henceforth no books of tokens are to be issued and the old books, upon which the Minister gave the most meticulous instructions and which were to be marked with the date of issue to make sure that his instructions were not exceeded, will not be returnable to the authorities. No trace can be found of them and no check or verification will be possible. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he has been too clever by half.

The whole operation typifies the Minister's attitude and approach, which, I venture to suggest, in confirmation of what my hon. Friends have already said, is one of meanness and paltry economy, at the expense—of all people—of expectant mothers. It is contrary to the whole spirit and outlook which originally animated the institution of the National Health Service, and I hope that hon. Members, taking note of what I have told the House as an illustration of the Minister's attitude of mind, will go into the Lobbies tonight to demonstrate their utter disgust by voting for the Prayers for the annulment of these miserable Orders.

11.6 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) on his paperchase. I think we heard much more about the instructions than we did about the contents of the Order, but I will say that the fact that he discovered it was going to take some weeks for the instructions to percolate downwards seemed to me to justify the Minister in making an early start.

Listening to hon. Members opposite on this Order, one would imagine that what my right hon. Friend is doing is to destroy the whole of the welfare food services. Of course he is doing nothing of the kind. He is simply charging more for it. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, which we support.

I suppose it is inevitable that this Order should be related by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) to the concession made in the Budget on Surtax, but, of course, we would say that this justifies the Order even more, because we do not believe that it is reasonable or desirable that people who have had concessions on Surtax should also have subsidised welfare foods.

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

The hon. Member will be on the Front Bench soon.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

My right hon. Friend has made full provision for all those who cannot afford to pay to have a rebate and get this service free.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

Hon. Members will see, if they look at the speeches which have been made previously, and the allowances which are to be made through National Assistance—

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

—that full rebate can be claimed.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

I am trying to follow the hon. Member. Am I wrong in assuming that his argument now is that benefits given through Surtax have been given by the Chancellor in order to make sure that those benefited will be able to pay for these welfare foods?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

Of course the hon. Member is. But the Surtax payers are only one class, and I shall come to the others in a minute. The truth is that we on this side of the House do not believe in indiscriminate subsidies.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I think this Order must be looked at after asking the question, can the mass of the people in this country afford to pay the proper price? In order to answer that question it would be reasonable to look at what they at present spend their money on. [HON. MEMBERS: "All of them?"] Most of them. Those who cannot afford it are already looked after by National Assistance.

I cite from page 238, Table 284, of the Abstract of Statistics, 1960. There is a table showing national consumer expenditure related to 1954 prices. This is the table which gives consumer expenditure in real terms. I am not proposing to quote what hon. Members opposite probably expect me to—what the country spends on tobacco, whisky, or motor cars. Spending on all these has gone up considerably over the last five years. However, everybody in the country does not smoke, everybody does not have a motor car and everybody does not drink, so we will leave them, but everybody buys household goods. I take two years which seem to me reasonably appropriate because they were election years—1955 and 1959. In real terms, related to 1954, from 1955 to 1959 expenditure on household durable goods was up by £293 million among the mass of the people, not the Surtax payers. In the same period, expenditure on other household goods was up by £44 million. Hon. Members opposite may say that household goods are the sort of things on which all families spend highly. Some spend more than others. Very well. This Order in a certain way deals with nutritious food, so let us look at the figures for expenditure on general food. Expenditure on food in real terms went up by £294 million during the period of 1955–1959.

Do hon. Members opposite honestly suggest that a nation that is spending £294 million extra on food cannot afford to pay for the orange juice for the children? Are they saying that a nation that has been spending an average over those years of £67 million extra on household goods cannot afford to pay the proper price for the vitamins which people think that their children may need? I do not believe it. I do not believe the country thinks it, though hon. Members opposite may think it does.

Photo of Mr Ernest Fernyhough Mr Ernest Fernyhough , Jarrow

The hon. Member says he does not believe that people with this spending capacity should have help by way of subsidy. There are plenty of farmers running Rolls-Royce cars. Why should they have subsidies?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I will prove to the hon. Member that many of them do not want those subsidies. The Ministry of Health Report for 1959 on the National Health Service states on page 197: Sales of National Dried Milk have been falling since 1950 owing to the expansion of the demand for branded baby foods. Here is a situation where a welfare service subsidised by the State is being ignored by the people. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not all the people."] It is being ignored by a large number who are buying instead higher priced branded baby foods.

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, because we should like to have his views made clear, since he may well be expressing the views of a Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Tory Government some day. Would he suggest that welfare services are applicable only in a condition of poverty in the country? We believe that it is the view of many of his colleagues that if there is any degree of affluence there is no need for welfare services, which is the logic of the poor law.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

We believe that people who can afford to pay should pay in order to make more money available for the service to be more effective for those who cannot afford to pay.

I do not believe that the people are so little independent that they want subsidies on this scale. What is being offered by the Minister now is a cost-price service. He is still providing a cheap service. If a mother goes to a chemist's for welfare foods, she has to pay not only the cost price but the profit as well. She can go to a health centre and get these things cheaper, and my right hon. Friend in making these supplies free to those who need them fulfils his social and health obligations. This Order discharges that responsibility to the full.

We have heard something tonight about the Labour Government when in office introducing a "free for all" service of welfare foods. But we have heard little said about the fact that during the war there was a charge for this service. Members opposite seem to think that merit only attached to the scheme when they made it free. Have they noticed the children born between 1940 and 1946 who are now in the age group of between 16 and 21? Those children were nurtured under this service when it had a charge on it, and that charge was approximately related to the one now proposed.

Have Members opposite noticed that these bonnie babies of that day have now become vigorous enough to get married earlier than ever before, pretty enough to raise an eyebrow wherever they go, and intelligent enough to be joining the Young Conservatives in very large numbers? Members opposite may believe in a "free for all," an attitude of "to each according to whether he needs it or not," but we do not. Such a policy is appropriate neither to the health nor to the independence of the nation, and so we on these benches support the Minister and this Order.

11.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Simon Mahon Mr Simon Mahon , Bootle

The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) could well have made that speech four, five, or even ten years ago, and it would have been just as barren of argument then as it is now. Unfortunately, he lacks one substantial argument in his favour, which we have not heard so far and which the Minister could give. In 1956–57 the Cohen Committee was asked by the Government to study this problem to see whether we were wasting money on this service. Is it the view of the hon. Member that this service is extravagant? Is that what the Government think? By withdrawing these foods, or interfering with them in such a way that their uptake will fall, will we damage the health of our people? The answer came back—and my hon. Friend quoted it at the beginning of the debate, and he has not been challenged on it so far—that there is a possible danger that children, especially those under one year old, will develop scurvy, even under present conditions, with all the affluence we boast about, because of the social position of certain parents, or their ignorance, or fecklessness, and the rest. This is not a quantitative responsibility; it is a qualitative one. This is where the hon. Member and his friends are going wrong.

We have a responsibility even unto the meanest, and most humble and ignorant of our citizens, and if by this Order we cause some children to be afflicted by a preventable disease, the responsibility lies on the Government and hon. Members opposite who support them. [Interruption.] Yes, it does. A Member of this House, who was a medical man, like the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson), defended a similar Order in the early thirties, when he was Minister of Agriculture, or Minister of Health—I am not sure which—by saying, "We will worry about this when malnutrition becomes apparent." Are we to accept it that the argument is that we will worry about the damaging effect of this Order only when scurvy, or whatever it is, has appeared?

If this is not the argument, we would expect the Minister to say, "The position is quite clear. I have set up a committee comparable with the Cohen Committee—and as renowned as that Committee, which will command the respect of all medical men; even the hon. Member for Carlisle will have to bow before its authoritarian views. This committee has discussed this once again, and the medical evidence is so clear that we can take this step tonight in the knowledge that no harm will come to any child".

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

The hon. Member should back up his argument by some facts. How many cases of scurvy can he bring before the House as evidence of what he is saying?

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

If the hon. Member for Carlisle will read the Cohen Report he will get the answers he wants. As a young doctor, trained ten years ago and still in active practice, I have seen only three cases of scurvy—but to what is that a tribute? Perhaps it is a tribute to the fact that these welfare foods are available. I have seen patients who were brought up in the old days who can still show the ravages of rickets and the rest, but I have never seen a case of rickets in this country, although I have seen some abroad. I am proud that I have never seen it in this country, and I suggest that before we take a step like this we should be quite sure that the argument is entirely on our side.

The onus of proof in this matter is on the Government. First, we had these diseases, which were preventable diseases, which are no longer with us; secondly, we have had the Government provision of welfare foods for a time sufficient for us to say that they have contributed largely to the eradication of these diseases; thirdly, we are now proposing to diminish this provision to such a degree that it will be highly marginal and possibly in effective; fourthly, we must ask whether this action will cause any illness?

I suggest that the fourth point must be answered by professional opinion and not the opinion of the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary, or the Secretary of State for Scotland. Medical men will read this debate with interest. They will see how this Parliament of ours, with all its intelligent Members, gathered from all the professions and trades, discusses the matter and whether it is an intelligent debate based on facts, understanding and inquiry. I feel that the Minister has not conducted any such inquiry or called for a committee to furnish a report. I defy him, and the hon. Member for Carlisle and any other medical man, to bring me medical evidence that the provision of these welfare foods is unnecessary. There is no single piece of medical evidence to that effect.

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

I quoted my family. If that is not good enough for the hon. Member, I do not know what is.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

I am surprised at the hon. Member putting forward an argument like that. As he knows, to maintain any possible argument in matters like this one would have to take a series of, say, 1,000 cases spread throughout the community. Arguing in the hon. Member's manner reduces the whole thing to an absurdity.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

I respect the medical knowledge which the hon. Member brings to this House and would not dream of disputing it. Equally, he has told the House of only a portion of the recommendations of the Cohen Committee. That Committee specifically recommended the abolition of subsidy for orange juice in view of the fact that it was no contribution to the reduction of scurvy for children over the age of two. I do not deny, and I do not want to mislead the House in any way, that that Committee did not recommend the abolition of subsidy for the smaller children, but as the hon. Member is getting so impassioned I should like him to explain why any person need be deprived of this welfare service through lack of means, since anybody who is unable to pay for these services has recourse to National Assistance.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

The noble Lord cannot have it both ways, even though he wants it both ways. If he insists that I accept the findings of the Cohen Committee, so must he. If he insists that I must, in conformity, support Government legislation which is in line with the recommendations of the Cohen Committee, so must he. This action by the Government, is not legislation which is in line with the Cohen Committee's recommendations. It will damage the very category which I have mentioned and which the noble Lord has emphasised.

Of course, it would not be people like the family of the hon. Member for Carlisle who will suffer. One would hope that no family of any hon. Member ever fall into the category of lacking vitamins. We do not want that to happen. We hope that most intelligent people, even though poor, will have the gumption to realise that a balanced diet and supplements are necessary and that they will go on paying for them, even at the full economic price. We are not dealing with a population, however, all of whom are wonderfully intelligent or rich. We are dealing with a population of whom some will suffer and, almost coinciding with them, a part of the population which, unfortunately, is not intelligent, learned or appreciative enough to realise the value of a balanced diet.

The Minister of Labour told me only on Monday that the average level of unemployment in my constituency has been 8 per cent. for the last ten years. That is almost one-tenth of the working population. I maintain that in my constituency there is an appreciable number of people, enough for me to worry about, who presently take up these vitamin supplements but who might not take them up if tonight's Order goes through. I go further and say that even in present circumstances there are people in my constituency who cannot afford these things but who should, nevertheless, take them. That is why the right hon. Gentleman is the Minister of Disease and not the Minister of Health. He is not thinking of preventive medicine.

If the Minister wants to make economies and to justify all his other economies with prescription charges and the rest, at least he should be willing to say, "I am spending something else in expanding preventive medicine. I have shot up the figures for these vitamin foods. I am the first Minister who has been able to turn back the trend in the taking up of vitamin foods." That, however, is not what the Minister is saying. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman is making absolutely certain that he will be the Minister who will preside over the end of this scheme. That is a great tragedy. This is done with not a piece of medical evidence to substantiate his position, with the heartlessness in administration which has been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead), and with absolute determination to be ruthless to the last. We now come to the last £1¼ million of the £69 million, and there is not a sign of relenting from the Treasury Bench. It is pathetic.

It is often said by hon. Members opposite that the Labour Party is old-fashioned. In the last few years, particularly this year, we have begun to see the Tories coming back to their old selves once again. It is astonishing to think that I should ever be on my feet in the House of Commons defending vitamin supplements and pleading with the Tories not to cut them. It is incredible that this should happen in the week in which we have had a tremendous taxation concession to the wealthier members of the community. Also, we have had an hon. Gentleman opposite telling us that the Governement have had to cut these subsidies because relief has been given to Surtax payers.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

The hon. Gentleman said that. He cannot retreat from it now.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I certainly did not say that.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

When the hon. Gentleman looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT he will realise that he should not have been visiting where he has been visiting. He said that in the hearing of many of us.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I am on record as having said previously that I support the Minister in what he says—that he has made these savings in order to be able to spend more on the Health Service. It had nothing to do with taxation.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

The hon. Gentleman should recollect his slip of the tongue, which he made several times, when he talked about Purchase Tax. He mentioned Surtax payers and used this argument. When he sees the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow he will be very surprised at what he said. Also, his constituents will be positively alarmed. They will be able to use this quotation to the full, and the hon. Gentleman deserves it, for it is a hostage to fortune of the first Order. It demonstrates the kind of thinking of hon. Gentlemen opposite who are desperate for arguments to justify themselves.

One of the arguments used was that of trying to get all people to take up these commodities at their economic price. This is asking for the best possible world. The fact is that we have people who are short of money—they may or may not be on National Assistance—and require these supplements. This Order will push down further the number of people who take advantage of these commodities. There is no medical evidence that they will not suffer as a consequence of failing to take these supplements. Therefore, it is a mistake in the field of preventive medicine for the House to accept the Government's proposals.

We have been told that we are on the brink of having fluoridisation of our water supplies. There are examples in Kilmarnock and Anglesey. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite argue that we should not have a subsidised water supply in the sense of the Minister of Health providing the fluoride to go into the water? If that is done we shall save a fortune in dentistry; there will be real savings.

That is the point here. According to the representatives of the Treasury, we are saving £1¼ million by this proposal. I suggest that we are losing a great deal as well.

11.40 p.m.

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The purpose of this Order is to provide vitamin supplements at cost price. Contrary to the statement of the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) that the scheme is being brought to an end, there is no change in the principle. The vitamin food supplements will be available to the same people as before at prices they can afford or free if they cannot.

The scheme is based on expert advice that as an insurance against under-nutrition extra vitamins should be readily available to certain groups. The Order does provide for some minor changes of detail. The residence test is abolished. Previously, as some hon. Members will know because I know they had constituency complaints, people who returned to this country from abroad had to wait four weeks before they requalified for the welfare supplements. That is being abolished, rightly so, I think, and there is immediate entitlement at cost price.

For free supplies, the quantities have been rounded slightly to fit a thirteen week period. Expectant mothers who have the free supplies will have only vitamin tablets where previously they had the choice of vitamin tablets or cod liver oil. Experience has proved that almost always they chose to have the tablets. For those who buy, no tokens or rationing will be necessary, although the quantities at present supplied based on medical advice will be recommended.

At present, orange juice is 5d. a bottle and available for children under the age of 2 and expectant mothers. It will become available for children up to the age of 5 as it used to be, although that was stopped in 1957 on the advice of the Cohen Committee, which recommended that after that age the more varied diet had enough vitamin C in it. In fact, extra vitamin C does no harm. It is a pleasant drink and it will be available now up to the age of 5.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

Can the hon. Lady explain why the chemists are being done out of profit in this matter? It seems a serious thing for a Conservative, because chemists could make a very good thing out of it.

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

It is because this orange juice is available only through my Ministry. The extension to the age of 5 will be welcomed because we have had letters at the Ministry from mothers who were anxious to purchase orange juice for those over 2 because they have a taste for it. The cost in future will be 1s. 6d. a bottle.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

In view of what we heard from the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson), will the hon. Lady also make it clear that it is very difficult to have any excess of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, and there is no harm in drinking a little more orange juice than most people do?

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

Perhaps I may reply by saying that my favourite drink is fresh orange.

Cod liver oil will be available for children up to 5 and expectant mothers, and the proposed price is 1s. Vitamin tablets will be available for expectant and nursing mothers at a cost of 6d. per packet.

For the history of the welfare food scheme we have to go back to the Second World War, when a scheme was started to ensure that expectant and nursing mothers and young children should not lack essential vitamins. It was to provide a supplement to meet the inevitable deficiencies. Again, to use the hon. Member's words, there was a shortage of food. We had to have just what we could get for this country in wartime, as all hon. Members will remember. The range was restricted and we did not get as much fruit and fresh vegetable as we needed. Because of the value which was placed upon a balanced diet, and particularly the need for the natural vitamin C in orange juice, these and other welfare foods were made available. It was an insurance, and, I believe, a good insurance, and in the course of it another thing happened which I believe was also good. The population became more enlightened as to the part the right intake of vitamins plays in our general health, and that has continued to grow.

Much of the improvement in the health of our younger members of the population today can be attributed to the welfare foods scheme, and I was delighted when hon. Members opposite paid tribute to the introduction of this scheme and the beneficial results that we saw from it in the present stature and growth of babies born in wartime, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) reminded the House, during the war when the scheme was introduced a charge was made for these supplements and was paid by the recipient. For orange juice the charge was 5d., the existing charge today, which covered the bottling and distribution. No charge was made for the juice itself. We could not do that because it came to us under Lease/Lend. That charge has been continued except for a very brief period of four months in 1941–42 when orange juice was free.

Cod liver oil was charged at cost, which was 10d., and vitamin tablets were also charged at cost, which was 10d., so they were dearer in wartime than the cost we now propose to put into effect. This continued until July, 1946, when the supplements were provided free.

The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North said that subsidy is the basic element in the scheme, and I hope I have now refreshed his memory to the point that there was no subsidy during those wartime years and that nevertheless these vitamins were purchased.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

The hon. Lady ought to make it clear that the orange juice was free in wartime. The only cost was the cost of bottling. If that is not an element of subsidy, I do not know what is.

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The cost paid was the same then as it is today. In the altered conditions of today, the immense differences from wartime, the widely shared prosperity of the people and the increased standard of living, I believe that it is reasonable that they should pay the cost price of these supplements.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

It is kind of the hon. Lady to give way. I hope she will bear in mind that in addition to providing these accessory food factors during the war and charging for them, we did protect the most vulnerable groups in two ways. First, there was national rationing, which meant that all could get their share; and then we had our priority groups for whom we cared first—mothers and children.

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The hon. Gentleman has given me my lead into the point that I was about to make. It is true that we had rationing during the war. Everybody had the same foods. In some respects there were benefits. But there were limitations. Now there is a wide variety of foods of all kinds. People can and do choose, and they have the alternatives of the welfare supplements if they wish to avail themselves of them. It is true that people can afford to pay the proper price in many cases, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford said—

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

Is this argument that we are in such a position at present that everyone can afford to pay the economic cost of commodities going to be applied equally to liquid milk? Do we take it that what the hon. Lady is now saying is that in a short time we shall have the same argument in relation to liquid milk?

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

No, there is nothing in this Order about liquid milk. No proposals are being made—

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

It is accepted that it is still desirable that these supplements should be readily available to mothers and young children, which I hope answers some of the concern expressed by hon. Members. We feel that mothers should continue to be advised and educated in their use.

The supplements to diet help in a period of rapid growth, and the vitamin C, in particular, is in a convenient and palatable form. Also, children over 2 need vitamin D. These are available to expectant mothers also, and, again, we wish them to take advantage of the vitamins available. It is a very cheap way of securing the vitamins. I know of no other source from which these vitamins can be obtained so cheaply. If the position of the minority is safeguarded, there is no reason why the majority should not pay for this as for the rest of their nutritional requirements.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) devoted the whole of his speech to certain minor administrative arrangements. I found it a little difficult to understand why he should base the whole of his contribution in what, apparently, is a protest against this Order on a very small administrative detail of the circulars sent out. In fact, the purpose of the circulars, as he was told in answer to the Questions he put to my right hon. Friend, was to ensure that all should have their fair entitlement and that everyone should be treated alike.

The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) asked what steps were being taken to ensure that excessive supplies do not accumulate as a result of a possible reduction in purchases after 1st June. In the first place, I do not accept that there will be any reduction. I have no reason to think that there will be. If there were, there would be no danger of supplies becoming unusable. Bottled orange juice, cod liver oil or vitamin tablets are ordered on a monthly basis, and the bulk orange juice, though ordered annually, is kept in cold storage, and I am advised that there is no risk of deterioration.

The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) referred to the Cohen Committee's Report. I have it here, but I shall not take time by quoting from it. The hon. Member was concerned to ensure that there would be a check in the future, and he asked that there should be outside professional reports on the working of the vitamin supplement scheme. We keep it under constant review in the Department, with the benefit of outside consultants, pediatricians and obstetricians, and we intend so to continue. I assure the hon. Member that we shall certainly keep a close watch on the situation.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

That really was not my question, though I appreciate the statement that the hon. Lady has made. My question was: what professional advice was given to the Minister in relation to this Order?

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

We have taken professional advice within our own Department.

That brings me to the part that the welfare foods have played in our improved maternity and child welfare care. There has been a big improvement during and since the war. Whatever figures or indices hon. Members choose to take, this will be seen to be so. All the relevant figures prove that there has been a steady decline in our mortality rates. In 1959, we reached new low records in every sector, in maternal mortality, infant mortality, neonatal mortality and perinatal mortality. Even the still-birth rate was down, and that has been the most stubborn of all.

We have now, I think, reached the hard core, which means that we have to have substantial selectivity, which may give a very small yield but will help in attacking the hard core which is still the residue of the problem in maternity and child welfare.

We need an intensive research campaign into the causes of still-birth and neonatal deaths, but I would not wish to withdraw anything which played a part in the beneficial results to which I have been able to refer, and the welfare foods have played and will continue to play their part. But what we must do is to continue our selectivity. The subsidy should go where it is most needed. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North and the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East referred to the people who do not have the welfare foods, in their own words, the more ignorant or the more feckless. Those are the people whom we should encourage to make use of these supplements, and it is those whom we wish to encourage to do so.

If they are in need and cannot afford the supplements, then the National Assistance Board machinery is available. The change will not cause any extra expense to people already receiving National Assistance, who will continue to be entitled to their supplies of substantially the same quantity of these food supplements as at present. The existing arrangements for the issue of free milk tokens will continue, and arrangements will be introduced to enable orange juice and other supplements to be obtained free from distribution centres of local health authorities.

People not already receiving assistance, whether or not they are in employment, and whose resources are insufficient by National Assistance standards to provide for their needs, including these vitamin supplements, will be able to get the same concession on application to the Board. The Board's assessment will be the same as for the National Health Service charges which have already been detailed to the House several times by my right hon. Friend and myself and which I will not repeat tonight.

The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North said that the National Assistance Board was unsuitable for this task, but I remind him that the Board's machinery has been already used for the issue of free milk and will continue to be and was so used by his own party when hon. Members opposite were in power. I find it a little hard to understand why by this reflection he should deprecate the good job which, as both sides of the House acknowledge, the Board has done. However, I hope that I have made it clear that minorities can, we hope, be looked after in this way and encouraged to take advantage.

One other way in which we intend to press for concentration on the hard core is education to encourage mothers to take advantage of these foods. In this connection, the National Health Service leaflet on maternity care is being revised. This leaflet is sent by National Insurance offices to all expectant mothers, along with milk tokens. It is also available in maternity and child welfare clinics. It is available to general practitioners and to hospitals in their maternity and children's departments. The revised leaflet will not be sent out until June, but early next month a special one-page leaflet on the changes and the values of the food and on the National Assistance Board arrangements will be issued with the existing leaflet and widely distributed to those people who already have the present leaflet. We proposed also to enlist the aid of the women's journals and the Press, the B.B.C. and I.T.A. Our public relations division will give information on the changes and on the supplies available.

Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent South

Will the hon. Lady arrange for copies of all these leaflets to be placed in the Library so that hon. Members can study them?

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

Yes, I shall be glad to.

I have not lost my sense of proportion in talking of the tremendous improvements which we are all so happy to welcome in the infant mortality and maternal mortality figures. I am well aware that a large part of the credit here should go to the scientific and clinical research team generally, doctors, midwives and domiciliary teams who have made such a contribution—in fact, to all members of the team because this has been a team effort. It has produced an encouraging improvement. Our present state of knowledge about the factors which underlie mortality and morbidity rates suggests that the last thing we should do should be to relax our efforts. We intend to maintain the contribution which the nutritional supplements make, but what we ought to do to obtain the maximum advantage in this progress is to use selective methods to influence the mothers through the health visitors and the other health education methods we have, through the maternity and child welfare services, through the work of the doctors and scientists.

Even the comparatively small sum involved in the change which this Order brings about can make a contribution to the concentrated sphere, and is it not better to concentrate all our efforts and the major amount of our resources into those parts rather than spread them over areas which are already well provided for?

I take up the hon. Gentleman's opening words. He asked, what are the social and economic priorities of this Government? To give the best possible Health Service we can, to give the best value we can for money, and we shall do that by concentrating on the areas where the priorities indicate the need.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

The hon. Lady has paid a tribute to the value of these welfare foods. She says the Government intend that the distribution shall continue at the present level. If we are right and the Government are wrong and the take-up falls, will the Government reintroduce the free service?

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I do not expect to see any change. If in fact there were such a change one would certainly wish to consider it, but I shall be very surprised indeed if there is any.

12.2 a.m.

Photo of Sir Barnett Stross Sir Barnett Stross , Stoke-on-Trent Central

I listened with great interest to the hon. Lady, and I enjoyed part of her speech very much. It fell into two parts. One was a reasoned and spirited defence of the value of the welfare foods, and with that we sympathised, for that is our case. Then, however, she attempted to defend tampering with the whole scheme by the imposition of charges and defended that, too, and, with respect, I beg her to believe that her argument sounded very weak to us on this side of the House, and to many people who sit behind her, too.

I shall be very brief, but I want to say that the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) was, of course, right in part in one of his statements, that one must be careful not to give too much of this food factor which protects against rickets. It is possible, not from taking cod liver oil—because one could not very well take too much of the normal cod liver oil—to take too much of the vitamin in others forms of oil so rich in content, as, for example, halibut liver oil, and others, where the strength is 250,000 units per gramme against 50 to 200 in cod liver oil. It is therefore essential to protect children, who can become ill or even die if given too much of this vitamin. Therefore, proprietory or unusual brands should not be touched by mothers at all.

To return to what the hon. Lady said. I want to give her and the House one illustration which shows that her argument was unfortunately not valid. If I believed her argument was valid, I would say so. This is the example. Before the war, in the mid-thiries—about 1935—an experiment was conducted on the fate of pregnant women at the time of delivery at the out-patient department at Sheffield. Two groups each composed of 500 women, representing a cross-section of those who attend ante-natal out-patients' departments throughout the country, were formed. One group was treated, but only in the last month of pregnancy, by the addition to their diet of one pint of milk a day and some vitamin A and B tablets. The other group were not disturbed at all. It is reasonable to assume that such large groups represented a fair cross-section of the whole population of ante-natal clinics. The results were amazing. Among those who were not given treatment by way of accessory food in the last month of confinement, the maternal death-rate was high—over five per thousand of births.

Among those who had the milk and tablets, though only in the last month, the death-rate was slightly above one per thousand of births.

I suggest that in places like Scotland where there is unemployment and where people although unemployed cannot get special assistance or are too proud to apply to the National Assistance Board, there will be womenfolk who if they cannot get the milk, the orange juice, the vitamin tablets or the cod liver oil will die when otherwise they should live. If it is only one death in the whole of Scotland or in Wales it is one too many. and we should take jolly good care not to tamper with a proven method which has brought so many compliments from the Parliamentary Secretary. I remember that in Stoke-on-Trent in 1926 the death rate among mothers was nine per thousand. There has been no death in recent years. We are, therefore, angry at seeing such tampering now with a service which has brought about improvements of which we are so proud.

12.8 a.m.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I have listened to the whole of this short debate, including the few speeches from hon. Members opposite, all of them trying to make a case for the removal of subsidies from these welfare foods. I thought that when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health replied she would at least attempt to give some medical reasons why these subsidies were being taken away, but not a single medical reason was adduced. Many of the statements which the hon. Lady made about the health of mothers and children were reasons why the subsidies should be continued.

There has been only one real report on this subject—the Cohen Report of the Joint Committee on Welfare Foods set up in 1957, and I should like to refer to some of that Committee's recommendations. The Parliamentary Secretary was asked if any other committee had examined this and given any advice to the right hon. Gentleman or to the Secretary of State for Scotland that caused them to produce these Orders. Her answer to that was as lame as the rest of her reply. She said the advice came from professional people within the Ministry. We do not accept that. These subsidies were continued as a result of a most important Committee, and we have a right to ask the Government to continue them until they have independent advice to the contrary. That independent advice has not been produced.

The Cohen Committee said it could be assumed that the incidence of rickets—we know a Jot about rickets in Glasgow—would be greater if the appropriate welfare foods were unavailable. After close examination, that Committee recommended the continuance of the welfare foods scheme. We have had no proof that what obtained at that time does not obtain today.

The Cohen Committee said it was important to maintain the health of the expectant and nursing mothers on the highest level—I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) made such an important point—and that the continuance of welfare foods for this group was justified. We have had no expert advice to the contrary, except that quoted by the hon. Lady.

These Orders are not health measures. The names of three Ministers are attached to them—Agriculture, Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hope that all Scottish Members have noticed that we have not had present for this debate a single Minister who has anything to do with Scottish health, although we have present a Minister who is in charge of education. What a scurvy way to deal with the House of Commons. I know that the Scottish people will take note of it, but after his reply about the teachers yesterday we are not surprised that the Secretary of State himself is not present.

There have been only two back bench Members from Northern Ireland present for the debate, as far as I am aware. If one of them represents a Belfast constituency, perhaps he will declare himself so that his constituents will know of his presence. I see that a third Northern Ireland Member, the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin), has just come in. The one woman from Northern Ireland in this House should have been here fighting these Orders.

The Parliamentary Secretary said complacently that we were so prosperous and that our prosperity was so evenly distributed that no one would suffer hardship under these Orders. It was not so long ago that she was in Glasgow, where the unemployment figure is twice the average for Great Britain. In Northern Ireland the unemployment figure is even higher. I was in Belfast a few weeks ago, and I can say that the people there were very worried about the position. Does the hon. Lady tell me that there will be no hardship in areas of heavy unemployment as a result of this Order?

She may tell me that these people can go to the National Assistance Board. Some of them who have suffered great hardship may find themselves unable to get help from the Board. What about the man who has been unemployed for a long time and who then finds a job? His wife will find that the earnings of the family are too high for her to be able to benefit from National Assistance, although debts may have piled up during the long period of unemployment; she may find that bed linen—which will be particularly necessary—will not be supplied, although hers will have worn out during the long period of unemployment. Does the hon. Lady know anything about the way in which these people live? Can she honestly say that everyone who needs it will get help from the National Assistance Board? I know that everyone will not, and I am certain that all the Ministers concerned also know that.

Not only will they not be able to get help from the Board; not only will they be denied those welfare foods which are essential for the mother and the child; in many cases they will have been denied the proper nutritional foods which they should have had. Hon. Members opposite who have spoken—especially the hon. Member for Carlisle—seemed to think that everybody was in a position to get all the vitamins and nutrition he needed, even without welfare foods. If all our people were in his financial bracket, of course they could see that their families had diets which provided all the necessary vitamins and nutrition. But that is not done cheaply; that is not done if one is living on a minimum wage—and it must be remembered that even a merely very low wage will prevent help being given by the National Assistance Board.

The hon. Member for Carlisle intervened to say that his children had never had these foods, and that there was no scurvy or rickets among them. One swallow does not make a summer, and I should have thought that he would know from conditions in his own constituency that many of his constituents would be quite unable to follow up the line that he followed up with his family, even if they wished to do so.

I was interested in another point made by the Cohen Committee. It said that steps should be taken to extend the education of the public in the nutritional needs of mothers and young children. In other words, rather than the Government going on year after year doing nothing at all about the fall in uptake—as they call it—in these welfare foods, they should have taken the advice of the Cohen Committee and used every form of publicity to let the mothers know how important these welfare foods were. The people will notice that it is only now, when the subsidies are disappearing altogether, that the Parliamentary Secretary has gladly announced all the steps that are to be taken to tell mothers what foods they can get under this welfare scheme. One would think that only now have the Government realised that not sufficient mothers had been taking these welfare foods. Our suspicion is likely to prove correct. It is only now, when they know that it will not cost the taxpayer a penny, that the Government are willing to use these means of trying to put across the idea that people can have them.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that people would get these welfare foods at cost price. Most people would take it for granted that the cost price was the cost of acquiring the foods, the price paid by the Minister, from whatever source he bought them. People will pay more than that. They will pay, in addition, for their storage, treatment and distribution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) put some pertinent questions to the Minister but did not get an adequate reply. Suppose that there is a great falling off in what is called the uptake of these foods. If the distribution costs have to be spread over a smaller number of people, those who buy them will have to pay even more. The charge will not be what most people understand to be the cost price, but will include all these other factors.

In spite of the view of the Parliamentary Secretary that there will not be a falling-off in uptake, if there is a falling off is there any guarantee that the Government will bring in another order to restore some form of subsidy? Both the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) and the Parliamentary Secretary talked about giving help where it was needed. The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford spoke about the independence of the nation. Are we to deny working-class mothers these welfare foods to make them independent?

I wonder how the wives of rich men win this independence which the Tories consider to be so important. They do not have to worry about the cost of these welfare foods. They do not have to worry about the cost of almost anything. How do the Tories instil this great feeling of independence into their wives and families? It is only when they are trying to impose burdens on the poorest in the country that time and time again they trot out the story of making people independent and being proud of it.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford said that he did not believe in indiscriminate subsidies. That is the opinion also of the Minister of Health. They believe, however, in being indiscriminate in other ways. They did not consider the body of Surtax payers and say, "Some of them might need help and some might not", yet these supposedly poor people are to get £58 million from the Chancellor of the Exchequer next year and £83 in a full year subsequently. The Minister of Health accepts the dictates of the Chancellor, whose name ought to have been attached to this Order, and takes £1½ million from the mothers and children.

It has always seemed to me of the greatest importance that we should care for the health and education of our

children. Responsibility for children is not only that of the parents, though I place it there first. It is the responsibility of a Government to ensure that no child lacks what will make it healthy and strong.

We had a report about dental caries among school children in one area in Scotland which shocked all Scotland. Did not the Minister think that by bringing in this Order he might increase that trouble? Does he not realise that if he does increase it he will have to find the money to pay the dentists to look after these children? Does he not realise that if expectant and nursing mothers are denied these welfare foods they may take up hospital beds, which are very costly indeed?

If we cannot appeal to the Minister on humanitarian and health grounds, I am trying at this late hour to appeal to him on financial and economic grounds, hoping that he will take a step to save the cost of hospital beds and the cost in dentistry because children's teeth are decaying and they are ill. But I do not think we can appeal to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in any way. Of all the miserable actions of the Tory Government in the last few months, this is the meanest, the most miserable and the most despicable.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

The hon. Lady has two or three more minutes yet.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

The hon. Gentleman is so used to spending all the evening in another part of the House and coming in here in the last few minutes and making ignorant interruptions. We pay little attention to such a Member.

We shall divide on this. I hope that the people of the country will realise that in order to give wealth to Surtax payers the Tory Government steal from the poorest, from the mothers and from the children something that they ought to have by right.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 178, Noes 261.

Division No. 139.]AYES[12.29 a.m.
Abse, LeoBaxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)
Ainsley, WilliamBlackburn, F.Bowles, Frank
Allaun, Frank (Salford. E.)Blyton, WilliamBoyden, James
Awbery, StanBoardman, H.Brockway, A. Fenner
Bacon, Miss AliceBowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)Broughton, Dr. A, D. D,
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Probert, Arthur
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Jay, Rt. Hon. DouglasProctor, W. T.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Jeger, GeorgePursey, Cmdr. Harry
Callaghan, JamesJenkins, Roy (Stechford)Randall, Harry
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Rankin, John
Chapman, DonaldJones, Dan (Burnley)Redhead, E. C.
Chetwynd, GeorgeJones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Reid, William
Collick, PercyJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Reynolds, G. W.
Corbet, Mrs. FredaKelley, RichardRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)King, Dr. HoraceRoberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Crosland, AnthonyLedger, RonRobinson, Kenneth (St Pancras, N.)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceLee, Frederick (Newton)Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Darling, GeorgeLever, Harold (Cheetham)Ross, William
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Lever, L. M. (Ardwiok)Short, Edward
Davies, Harold (Leek)Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Silver-man, Julius (Aston)
Deer, GeorgeLipton, MarcusSkeffington, Arthur
de Freitas, GeoffreyLoughlin CharlesSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Delargy, HughMabon, Dr. J. DicksonSmall, William
Dempsey, JamesMcCann, JohnSmith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Diamond, JohnMacColl, JamesSorensen, R. W.
Dodds, NormanMcInnes, JamesSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Driberg, TomMcKay, John (Wallsend)Spriggs, Leslie
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. JohnMacMillan, Malcolm (Western Islet)Steele, Thomas
Edelman, MauriceMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Stonehouse, John
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Stones, William
Evans, AlbertManuel, A. C.Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Fernyhough, E.Mapp, CharlesStross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Finch, HaroldMarquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.Swain, Thomas
Fletcher, EricMarsh, RichardTaylor, John (West Lothian)
Forman, J. C.Mason, RoyThompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughMayhew, ChistopherThomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Ginsburg, DavidMellish, R. J.Thornton, Ernest
Gourlay, HarryMendelson, J. J.Timmons, John
Greenwood, AnthonyMillan, BruceUngoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Grey, CharlesMilne, Edward J.Warbey, William
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)Mitohison, G. R.Weitzman, David
Griffiths, W. (Exchange)Monslow, WalterWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Moody, A. S.White, Mrs. Eirene
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Morris, JohnWhitlock, William
Hamilton, William (West Fife)Moyle, ArthurWilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Hannan, WilliamMulley, FrederickWilkins, W. A.
Hart, Mrs. JudithNeal, HaroldWilley, Frederick
Hayman, F. H.Oswald, ThomasWilliams, LI. (Abetillery)
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(RwlyRegis)Pannell, Charles (Leeds W.)Williams, W- R. (Openshaw)
Herbison, Miss MargaretPargiter, G. A.Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hewitson, Capt. M.Parker, JohnWilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hill, J. (Midlothian)Parkin, B. T.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hilton, A. V.Pavitt, LaurenceWoof, Robert
Holman, PercyPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Wyatt, Woodrow
Houghton, DouglasPeart, FrederickYates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Pentland, Norman
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Plummer, Sir LeslieTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hunter, A. E.Popplewell, ErnestMr. Charles A. Howell and
Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Prentice, R. E.Mr. Lawson.
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Agnew, Sir PeterBromley-Davenport. Lt.-Col. Sir WalterCrosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.
Aitken, W. T.Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryCrowder, F. P.
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Brooman-White, R.Curran, Charles
Allason, JamesBrowne, Percy (Torrington)Dalkeith, Earl of
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian(Preston, N.)Bryan, PaulDance, James
Arbuthnot, JohnBuck, Antonyd'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Ashton, Sir HubertBullard, DenysDeedes, W. F.
Balniel, LordButcher, Sir HerbertDigby, Simon Wingfield
Barber, AnthonyCampbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)Doughty, Charles
Barlow, Sir JohnCampbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Drayson, G. B.
Barter, JohnCarr, Compton (Barons Court)du Cann, Edward
Batsford, BrianChannon, H.P.G.Duncan, Sir James
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonChataway, ChristopherDuthie, Sir William
Bennett. F. M. (Torquay)Chichester-Clark, R.Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Berkeley, HumphryClark, William (Nottingham, S.)Elliott, R. W. (Nwestle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Bidgood, John C.Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Emery, Peter
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelCleaver, LeonardErrington, Sir Eric
Bishop, F. P.Cooke, RobertFarr, John
Black, Sir CyrilCordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Finlay, Graeme
Bossom, CliveCordle, JohnFisher, Nigel
Bourne-Arton, A.Corfield, F. V.Foster, John
Box, DonaldCostain, A. P.Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)
Boyle, Sir EdwardCoulson, J. M.Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Braine, BernardCraddock, Sir BeresfordFreeth, Denzil
Brewis, JohnCritchley, JulianGammans, Lady
Gardner, EdwardLinstead, Sir HughRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Gibson-watt, DavidLitchfield, Capt. JohnRobinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Glover, Sir DouglasLloyd, Rt. Hon, Selwyn (Wirral)Robson Brown, Sir William
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Longbottom, CharlesRoots, William
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)Loveys, Walter H.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Goodhart, PhilipLucas-Tooth, Sir HughRoyle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Goodhew, VictorMacArthur, IanSandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Gough, FrederickMcLaren, MartinScott-Hopkins, James
Grant, Rt. Hon. WilliamMcLaughlin, Mrs. PatriciaSeymour, Leslie
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.Maclay, Rt. Hon. JohnSharpies, Richard
Green, AlanMaclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)Shaw, M.
Gresham Cooke, R.McLean, Neil (Inverness)Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn
Grimston, Sir RobertMacleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)Skeet, T. H. H.
Gurden, HaroldMacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Hall, John (Wycombe)McMaster, Stanley R.Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)Spearman, Sir Alexander
Harris, Reader (Heston)Maddan, MartinStanley, Hon. Richard
Harrison, Brian (Maldon)Maitland, Sir JohnStevens, Geoffrey
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Manningham-Butler, Rt. Hn. Sir R,Storey, Sir Samuel
Harvie Anderson, MissMarten, NeilStudholme, Sir Henry
Hay, JohnMathew, Robert (Honlton)Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)Talbot, John E.
Hiley, JosephMawby, RayTapsell, Peter
Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)Maydon, Lt.-Cdr. S. L. C.Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Mills, StrattonTaylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Hinchingbrooke, ViscountMotngomery, FergusTeeling, William
Hirst. GeoffreyMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Temple, John M.
Hobson, JohnMott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Hollingworth, JohnNabarro, GeraldThomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord JohnNeave, AireyThorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Hopkins, AlanNicholls, Sir HarmarThornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Hornby, R. P.Nicholson, Sir GodfreyTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)Noble, MichaelTilney, John (Wavertree)
Howard, John (Southampton, Test)Nugent, Sir RichardTurner, Colin
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnOakshott, Sir HendrieTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Hughes-Young, MichaelPage, Graham (Crosby)Tweedsmuir, Lady
Hulbert, Sir NormanPartridge, E.van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hutchison, Michael ClarkPearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John
Iremonger, T. L.Peel, JohnVickers, Miss Joan
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Percival, IanVosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Jackson, JohnPickthorn, Sir KennethWalder, David
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Pike, Miss MervynWalker, Peter
Jennings, J. C.Pilkington, Sir RichardWalker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Pitman, I. J.Ward, Dame Irene
Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Pitt, Miss EdithWatts, James
Johnson Smith, GeoffreyPott, PercivallWells, John (Maidstone)
Joseph, Sir KeithPowell, Rt. Hon. J. EnochWhitelaw, William
Kaberry, Sir DonaldPrice, David (Eastleigh)Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Prior, J. M. L.Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Kerby, Capt. HenryProfumo, Rt. Hon. JohnWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Kimball, MarcusProudfoot, WilfredWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Kirk, PeterPym, FrancisWise, A. R.
Lagden, GodfreyQuennell, Miss J, M.Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Langford-Holt, J.Ramsden, JamesWoodhouse, C. M.
Leather, E. H. C.Rawlinson, PeterWoodnutt, Mark
Leavey, J. A.Redmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinWoollam, John
Leburn, GilmourRees, HughWorsley, Marcus
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryRees-Davies, W. R.Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Renton, David
Lilley, F. J. P.Ridley, Hon. NioholasTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lindsay, MartinRippon, GeoffreyMr. Edward Wakefield and
Colonel J. H. Harrison.