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Schoolchildren (Mid-Day Meals)

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 24 March 1943

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is satisfied with the progress, so far made throughout the country, in the provision, with or without payment, of hot mid-day meals for elementary schoolchildren; whether the appropriate authorities are doing all they can to assist; how far progress is impeded by lack of suitable accommodation or equipment; and, having regard to the fact that many mothers are being required for part-time essential work, what steps he is taking to improve matters?

The progress made in the provision of midday meals for schoolchildren has been most encouraging, the numbers of meals provided daily having risen from 300,000 to over a million in the past two years. While a few authorities were rather slow in starting, the large majority have co-operated energetically and many have achieved remarkable expansion; shortage of labour and materials has inevitably caused delays here and there, but these difficulties are being considerably eased. In addition to progress already made, proposals providing for over half-a-million more children to receive meals are in hand. My right hon. Friend is continuing to exercise pressure where necessary, but generally speaking local educa- tion authorities are doing all in their power to expand and improve this service.

Do the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given include meals which are given with and without payment? Further, in view of the large numbers of mothers who are now coming into industry for part-time war work is he satisfied that that aspect is receiving proper consideration?

The answer to the first part of the hon. and gallant Member's Supplementary Question is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part we should not like to be satisfied with anything short of a complete cover, as was explained during the Debate on the Beveridge Report, but really the efforts of local education authorities in this matter are most praiseworthy and the number that have to be stimulated is refreshingly few.