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Welfare Foods

Volume 640: debated on Monday 8 May 1961

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39.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that, in a family in which there are a number of young children, such ailments as colds and measles commonly run through the whole family, and that in such a family the expense of the proposed extra prescription charge will be considerable, and will, in many cases, make the purchase of special foods, necessary for recuperation, impossible; and what steps he proposes to take to meet this hardship.

I would refer the hon. Member to the arrangements for preventing hardship set out in the National Assistance Board leaflet A.L.19, of which I am sending him a copy.

While we in this House understand about those arrangements, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is extremely difficult for some of these harassed mothers of families in these circumstances, or for the chronic sick, to take full advantage of the arrangements? Cannot he suggest something better to ease this real hardship?

I have no reason to think that under such circumstances as those to which the Question refers there would be a severe additional cost, or, if there were, that the arrangements to which I have referred would not avoid hardship as a result of it.

40.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that in 1956, at clinics in the borough of Barking, 34,000 tins of national dried milk were sold at 10½d. a tin, but that in 1957, when the price was raised to 2s. 4d. only 25,000 tins were sold; and, since the proposed introductions and increases of charges for welfare foods are likely to cause a similar fall in demand, nationally as well as locally, what special observation of the effect on the health of young children and nursing mothers he intends to institute.

I have no reason to think that the proposed charges for vitamin supplements will have adverse effects.

If the hon. Lady is really trying to look at this realistically, would she not agree that it is realistic to expect that some mothers—perhaps only a minority—will be less able or less willing to take up these welfare foods when they have to pay the full cost of them? Why should the children be penalised in those circumstances because the Government are making it more difficult rather than easier for the mothers to get the foods?

As I explained in the debate on the regulations, those mothers for whom the charges would impose hardship can have the vitamins supplied free, as they already have welfare milk.

42.

asked the Minister of Health what is the percentage of mothers entitled to welfare foods in the city and county borough of Carlisle who take advantage of these facilities.

The uptake of vitamin supplements in Carlisle in 1960 was orange juice 44 per cent.; cod liver oil 11 per cent.; vitamin tablets 31 per cent.

While I am interested to hear from my hon. Friend's reply that so many of my constituents are following the example of my wife and myself, might I ask her whether she is aware that when I go to my constituency I see not, on the one hand, 40 per cent. healthy children and, on the other hand, 60 per cent. children suffering from rickets and scurvy because they do not happen to have had their welfare foods, but an entire population of healthy children? Will she and her right hon. Friend look at this whole question of welfare foods with a view, perhaps, to concentrating them on the real cases of hardship where there are large families, or even such circumstances as have just been mentioned by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg)?

Yes, Sir; that is the purpose of the present measures, that benefit shall be given where it is most needed. I am sure that the fact that my hon. Friend sees healthy children in his constituency is due to there being a wide variety of foods plentifully available.