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Welfare Foods

Volume 655: debated on Monday 5 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Health if he will state the decrease in the distribution of orange juice, cod liver oil and vitamin tablets in the quarter ended 31st December, 1961, compared with the corresponding quarter in the previous year; and if, in view of the Government promise in April, 1961, that they would reconsider the charges then imposed under certian circumstances, he will now so reconsider them.

Sixty-one per cent., 64 per cent. and 48 per cent. I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to him on 26th February.

Were we not told last April that no change was expected in the quantities taken up, but that if a change did occur, then the authorities would reconsider the matter? Is the Minister going to honour that promise, or is he going to dodge it as he did on 26th February when he told us that there was no evidence of any failure to obtain the necessary quantities of vitamin, which is quite a different point?

That is not dodging the undertaking at all. It is the outcome of the continuous review, which I am maintaining.

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what the assurance of his hon. Friend meant? If this decision was taken, as it appears to have been, on the assumption that there would be no change, and if there has in fact been a drop of two-thirds, is the Minister telling us that he refuses to consider it or that he has reconsidered it and proposes to do nothing?

It is the latter, because the evidence that I have is that there is no reason for anxiety about vitamin intake in spite of the movement of the figures since that time.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that changes in a downward direction concerning the health of children would be barely perceptable over a long period? Surely he should do something before he has evidence of deterioration in the health of our young children and mothers and not wait until it is apparent before doing something to reintroduce this free food?

No. What I realise to be the best way of ensuring vitamin intake is by selective methods, such as those applied by health visitors, and not by the indiscriminate subsidy which was abolished last year.


asked the Minister of Health what reduction there has been in the total issues of welfare foods in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the last quarter of 1961, compared with the last quarter in 1960; to what he attributes this reduction; and what consultation he has had with the local authority on this matter.

With permission I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Sales fell after the price

Quarter endedNational Dried MilkOrange juiceCod Liver OilVitamin A and D Tablets
31st December, 1960 (14 weeks)41,46925,1324,5882,864
30th December, 196135,9438,5581,7311,351
Percentage Decrease*7635949

*Correcting the 1960 figures to 13 weeks.


asked the Minister of Health if he will give the total cost to public funds of advertising the nutritive value of welfare foods, since the price of these foods was increased.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his answer will undoubtedly perturb many of us who are interested in this matter? Is he changes on 1st June, 1961. The council has brought the reduction to my right hon. Friend's notice.

On a point of order. I do not understand why three figures must be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT and could not be given in the Reply. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the drop represents 27,000 items of welfare food over the same quarter in the previous year? Does her right hon. Friend really suggest that he is happy about this in one of the heavy industrial areas where a high proportion of the families are in the low income group? How much more evidence does the Minister want before he will honour his promise to review the position?

Rather than there being three figures, when the hon. Gentleman reads the answer he will see that there are twelve figures; in any case, it would appear from his supplementary question that he really knew the answer. The relevant indices prove that children are receiving adequate amounts of vitamins.

The point which the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) raised on a point of order does not give rise to a point of order.

Following are the figures:

aware that it has cost the National Assistance Board about £100,000, since the charges went on, to issue vouchers? Many people in the low income groups—earning £8 to £9 a week—are not now obtaining these welfare foods. Can the right hon. Gentleman not admit defeat and honour the pledge given by his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and make an honest woman of her?

There is no reason why the hon. Gentleman should be perturbed at the impossibility of making an estimate, because so much of the work of bringing these foods to the notice of the public is wrapped up with other work of local health authorities and cannot be disentangled and separately costed.

Why does the right hon. Gentleman persist in what he must now regard, in view of his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) earlier, as a waste of public money? If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, there is no evidence that women and babies are not getting these welfare foods, why spend public money on advertising them?

Because the availability of these foods from local health authority sources should be known to those for whom they are intended. Those who do not get them from the local health authorities can and do obtain the great bulk of such foods from other sources.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.