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School Milk And Meals

Volume 977: debated on Wednesday 30 January 1980

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8.58 pm

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Provision of Milk and Meals (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1979 (S.I., 1979, No. 1686), dated 17 December 1979, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19 December, be annulled.

I understand that it is the wish of the House that we take with this the following motion:

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Milk and Meals (Education) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1979 (S.I., 1979, No. 1682), dated 7 December 1979, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19 December, be annulled.

The House should be clear about what we are discussing. The Government may well say that we are discussing a simple increase in charges for school meals. They will probably say that it is a modest increase of only 5p. They will say that it is an increase of a kind that we have had before. They may even mention the economic cost of school meals and say that the increase is justified and that there is no real difference between the present increase and increases in the past.

In fact, that is not so, because the regulations are significantly different from those that have increased the price of school meals previously. It is true that the increases are made in order to raise revenue. The Government take every opportunity to grab what revenue they can and to increase charges. But the regulations simply introduce an interim increase until local authorities can increase the price of school meals further, under the Education (No. 2) Bill. We cannot view the regulations in any other way.

The House should be grateful to the Secretary of State, who is not with us tonight, because in his press release at the time of the announcement of the increase he honestly told us the real reason for the increase. He said on that occasion that the increase would help local authorities to make progress towards achieving the savings next year set out in the Government's White Paper, pending the enactment of the Education (No. 2) Bill.

Therefore I think we cannot separate the regulations that we have before us this evening from the Education (No. 2) Bill, which is now in Committee, where discussion has been curtailed because of the guillotine, so that we cannot discuss the school meals problem properly. We cannot separate these regulations from the Government's general economic policy, such as it is, and we cannot separate these regulations from the other measures which the Government are embarking upon that do harm to ordinary families and make life more difficult for many people in this country.

This increase in the charge for school meals, which comes into operation next week, follows an increase in school meal prices only last September. That increase was one which we Labour Members regretted. But we understood and, indeed, accepted the need for that increase. Indeed, as the Minister no doubt intends to remind the House, that increase was one which we as a Labour Government had acknowledged was necessary and had accepted would take place.

However, that increase in school meal charges last September was the first increase for two years, because the previous Government, the Labour Government, had held the price of school meals steady for two years. The present Government are to introduce another increase in school meal charges just five months after the last one. I doubt whether any Government in the past have had two increases in school meal prices in such a short time.

One reason for this is the quickening pace of inflation under this Government, but there are also other reasons. The Government are obviously taking every opportunity they can both to increase charges and to cut public services. Indeed, the Government are almost proud of their record in making cuts and their record in increasing charges. Part of the problem that the country is facing is that the Government make hasty decisions, such as this one to increase school meal charges, without looking at the facts, without looking at the consequences and without any sense of priorities or any idea of what the country needs.

No doubt the Minister will tell us this evening that charges of this kind are necessary because he sees the alternative as more classroom cuts. His right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has told the House on several occasions that school meals, school milk and school transport must all face new charges because the alternative is other cuts in the education field. Indeed, his noble Friend who speaks for the Government in another place put it very clearly when he said that these cuts were necessary because the alternatives, which included cutting back on classroom supplies and teachers, were even less acceptable to the Government.

The sad fact is that the choice is not one of cuts in school meals or cuts in the classroom. It is a false argument that the Government are putting forward, for two reasons. It is a false argument because even the Government ought to accept that teachers cannot teach hungry or tired children—which is the attitude Government members are coming round to on the Education Bill. It is also a false argument because it is untrue that cuts in school meals at the present time are preventing cuts in the classroom. All over the country we are seeing cuts in the number of teachers that many local authorities are employing, cuts in book supplies and cuts in capitation generally.

The Government's proposal on school meals, these increased charges and the other cuts they are introducing are doing nothing to prevent real education cuts in the classroom, which many Conservative authorities have been making in a frenzy of enjoyment. Now, they will not only continue to cut classroom equipment and teachers, but will cut school meals and milk with relish as well.

The regulations are important. They indicate the future pattern of school meal charges. In the past, school meal prices have been fixed by the Government. Nutritional levels have been laid down by the Government. If the Government have their way, all that will be a thing of the past. We shall have more frequent increases in school meal charges, and they will be substantial increases. That is bound to happen, and the two increases that we have seen in the past five months are merely the first stages of what will happen because of the Government's attitude.

Following the Government's lead, many local authorities are now planning the increases that they will have to make. They are anticipating legislation that the Government are forcing through the House. Families had to face an increase in September 1979. They will have to face a further increase next week, in February. If the Government are successful in pushing their Bill through the House, many parents will face an increase in April, an increase in September and further increases in the following year. By September, many parents will have had four increases in school meal charges within 12 months.

That is not speculation. Many local authorities have already made their decision. There is much evidence that they will charge 45p in April and 50p in September. Some authorities, such as those in Devon and Warwickshire, are even now announcing plans to charge 60p for a school meal. The list of authorities that are making such decisions is endless. They are making these decisions under pressure from the Government to make public expenditure cuts.

The Government do not seem to understand that merely increasing the charge for school meals will not solve their problem. That will not raise the revenue that they are expecting. The Government are forgetting that as charges increase, fewer children will take school meals. As fewer children take school meals, the economic cost per meal will increase. We are entering a vicious circle that will lead to the break-up of the school meals service as we know it.

The Government seem to ignore these considerations. Their aim remains the same. They want parents to have to pay the full economic cost for school meals. That is the Government's intention, but so far Government spokesmen have not had the courage to say so. They have said instead that local authorities will have to make the decisions for them.

There has been much discussion about school meal subsidies, but no Minister has suggested that local authority employees or other workers who receive subsidised meals should have them withdrawn. Many chief executives and many directors of education receive subsidised meals. However, no one on the Government Benches is complaining about that. They are saying that children should not have their meals subsidised and that we should move towards a system in which parents have to pay the full economic cost.

I wonder how the Government think that ordinary families will be able to cope, especially as the increased charges have to be set against the background of the Government's other actions. It is not only an increase in the price of school meals that families face. The Government are to abolish the supply of milk for infants. They know that that is the reality of their plan. They are forcing local authorities to introduce new transport charges which will hit many family budgets. It may be that Ministers in the Department of Education believe that these new charges do not matter. Perhaps they believe that families can use the glorious tax rebate they received some time ago to enable them to cover these charges. But, for the vast majority of families the tax rebate of which the Government are so proud has been swallowed up many times over. It has been swallowed up by value added tax increases, inflation, increased mortgages, increased rates, the increased television licence fee and increases in the cost of gas, electricity and school transport.

One of my hon. Friends raised an important point yesterday about the Government's attack on families. What the Government are now doing is almost taxing parenthood. The Government's policies hit hard at the pockets of those who can least afford it. The Government must realise that their present financial policies affect mothers in particular.

What a constituent of mine said to me recently must be typical of the thoughts of many mothers throughout the country. She asked me whether it was true that the price of school meals was to be increased again. When I confirmed what the Government were doing, her next question was "Oh, is child benefit going up as well?" The Government may think that that is a very simplistic view, but for many mothers there is a direct relationship between child benefit and the price of school meals because they are the people who have to pay the bill.

The reason for this increase is very clear. The Government intend to make as many cuts as they can as quickly as possible and to increase as many charges as they can as quickly as possible. These regulations are not simply about increased charges, because many similar regulations in the past have contained provisions for increasing the income levels at which families could claim free school meals. If we look at the regulations, which are extremely brief, we see that there is no provision for that. No doubt the Government will say that part of the reason for that is that they increased the limit last year and, therefore, they do not want to do it again. But if they can increase the price of school meals twice in five months they can look at the income levels at which free school meals can be claimed twice in five months.

Though the Government will not admit it, the real reason why the income levels have not been increased is that the Government are against free school meals, or at least the number who can claim free school meals. The Government are determined to cut down the number of free school meals that are obtained.

My hon. Friend will remember that in the election campaign the Conservatives made great play of trying to reduce the poverty gap. Would she not agree that by deliberately refusing to adjust the means test the Government are deepening the poverty trap and reducing the incentive for people to work?

The Government are doing exactly that at present. At the time of the election, many people were attracted by the idea that this Government would do something to rationalise that situation. The Conservatives made many promises and gave many indications that that would be their approach. What my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) says is correct, and I am sure that if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will wish to develop that point further. The Government are determined to reduce the number of free school meals available to children. On reflection, we should not be surprised that there is no provision in these regulations for the extension of free school meals.

The Secretary of State made his attitude to free school meals quite clear in our debate on the Education (No. 2) Bill, because on that occasion he said:
"many children who have free meals flog their vouchers and spend the money in other ways".—[Official Report, 5 November 1979; Vol. 973, c. 47.]
I should be very surprised if the Secretary of State really believed that. He is present, and if he wants to indicate that he has changed his mind I shall be pleased to give way. But a Secretary of State who adopts that type of attitude and assumes that free school meals are used in that kind of way shows a complete lack of understanding of the way in which people claim school meals and the way in which the system works.

It is strange that we should be discussing the order tonight, because hon. Members serving on the Education (No. 2) Bill Committee are also discussing school meals. Although the Committee debate is guillotined, there has been some indication of the attitude of the Under-Secretary of State. He has given some guidelines as to his attitude. He has told us that he believes that school meals and the obligations that at present exist, are an out-of-date duty. He has acknowledged that a few children may suffer from malnutrition as a result of what will happen. But he thinks that somehow we shall get round that and that it will not matter. He has not told us how he will get round it or how it will not matter. We look forward to the Under-Secretary using this opportunity tonight to defend the position that he has taken in Committee as well as the position that the Government have taken overall.

The regulations are short. The Government will present them as a simple increase. But it is important for the House to consider them in their true context in view of the other recent increases that have taken place in school meals and in view of the Government's proposals in regard to school meals under the Education (No. 2) Bill.

The Government's proposals will have a devastating effect on the school meals service and will, therefore, have a devastating effect on education. This measure is the Government's first step in destroying the school meals system. It is an indication of their cavalier and careless attitude towards school meals and education in general. Labour Members will have no hesitation at all in voting against the Government tonight.

9.17 pm

The hon. Member for Bolton. West (Mrs. Taylor) has, in her own style, presented her views in a way which she thinks will generate some sincerity. However, there are two aspects of her speech that I should like to deal with at the outset.

Like many of her hon. Friends serving on the Education (No. 2) Bill Committee, which has also debated this subject, the hon. Lady has engaged in purveying speculative gloom and despondency, and I do not believe that it is any part of the duty of a Member of Parliament to convey that sort of message to one's constituents.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) must allow me to develop the opening part of my speech.

If the hon. Gentleman expected me to give way, he certainly closed the door completely by that closing aside. I believe that four Front Bench Members wish to speak. In addition, a number of hon. Members are gathering on the Opposition Benches. Therefore, I think that I should be allowed to get on with my speech.

The hon. Lady's reference to free meals was a gross exaggeration. It was the sort of remark to which we have become used during the past 24 sittings of the Committee. There have been exaggerated claims that we are destroying the school meals service and free meals, neither of which is true. The Government have done nothing over the past seven or eight months to destroy the provision of free meals. There is nothing planned in the legislation that will destroy the free school meal service. The House must understand that—[Interruption.] I am glad that I have triggered off a sedentary reaction from Opposition Members. I knew, in particular, that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) would rise to that bait in the same way as he has risen to it for the last three or four months in Committee. His derisive laughter helps me to conclude that I am striking oil. He knows that he owes a better deal to his constituents than to exaggerate the situation.

The hon. Gentleman is a fisherman, obviously. He knows that I shall not give way when he rises like that. It would not be in his interest for me to give way to him now.

The background to the Government's decision to increase the school meal charge by 5p is well known. However, it is worth repeating for the benefit of Opposition Members, because they appear to show a callous disregard for the true facts.

The White Paper "The Government's Expenditure Plans 1980–81", Cmnd. 7746, which was published in November of last year, began with these words:
"Public expenditure is at the heart of Britain's present economic difficulties."
Those economic difficulties were perpetrated largely by Opposition Members—[Interruption.] I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Bedwellty has his sense of humour well to the fore, even though he should be contemplating the true facts in greater detail.

The hon. Gentleman purveys it most of the time.

Over recent years, public expenditure has been allowed to increase on assumptions made about the economic growth needed to finance it that have not been borne out. The Government intend that their plans for spending should be compatible with a realistic assessment of the prospects for economic growth. Also, they intend that the plans should be compatible with the objectives of increasing incentives through reduced taxation—which has taken place—and controlling public sector borrowing, which has started. The overwhelming need for 1979–80 and 1980–81 was to reduce the unrealistic growth in public expenditure contained in the previous Administration's plans.

What of education expenditure? On several occasions, my right hon. and learned Friend and I have said that spending on education services could not be exempt from that process. However, because of the importance for the future of doing all that is possible to maintain the standard of education, my right hon. and learned Friend believed that the bulk of the reductions should come from the ancillary services of providing school meals, milk and transport. I remind all hon. Members that expenditure on those items costs about £530 million—almost 7 per cent. of the cost of the education service as a whole. Both local authority associations, the ACC and the AMA, expressed their support for the strategy. Indeed, the ACC urged upon the Government in July the need to relax a number of statutory duties, of which the inflexible requirements relating to the provision of school meals was one.

I turn to the school meal charge. We propose that expenditure on school meals, in particular, should be halved in 1980–81. Both local authority associations said that they would help their members to achieve the required reductions if we increased the school meal charge this term. They argued that small regular increases are less disruptive of the service than are large irregular ones. My right hon. and learned Friend—and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales—accepted that argument. Furthermore, a continuing high level of income from pupils who pay for the school meal is essential if a viable service is to be maintained. The effect of the increase in the charge on the number of paying pupils has to be carefully judged.

The evidence of the past two increases in the charge supports those views. There was a 5p increase last term from 25p, which had no effect when compared with one year earlier on the proportion of pupils at school who paid for a school meal. It was about 52 per cent. at the time of each October census. However, there was a small increase in the proportion of primary school pupils paying for a meal, from 61 per cent. to 63 per cent., and a small decrease among secondary school pupils paying for a meal from 42 per cent. back to 41 per cent.

By contrast, the two-thirds increase in the charge introduced by the Labour Administration in the summer of 1977 from 15p to 25p resulted in a drop in the proportion of pupils who were paying for a meal from 60 per cent. in October 1976, to 50 per cent.—a drop of 10 per cent.—in October 1977.

In 1978–79, the income from paying pupils amounted to about £200 million, or about one-third of the gross expenditure on the service. In that year, a daily average of 4 million children were paying 25p for a meal which cost 54p to produce. One million children were getting the meal free, as were 500,000 adults under their general terms of service.

But it is clear from the figures for unit costs in 1978–79 that local education authorities already apply different priorities, even when subject to national standards and national charging policies. Although the average cost of producing the meal was 54p, it varied among individual local education authorities from 44p to 65p. Although, on average, 29p of the 54p went on wages of catering staff and midday supervisory assistants, some authorities had been able to hold those costs down to about 23p. Similar variations were apparent in the amounts spent on food and on other overheads.

I turn to some aspects of future arrangements, which are all-important in view of the—

I should hate to spoil a good relationship, so I shall show some typical Celtic generosity and give way to the hon. Gentleman.

:Before the Minister moves on from this point, will he answer the point raised by my hon. Friend as to why, in the case of these regulations, there is no new provision for income limits so that there is a guarantee against poor people suffering as a consequence of this rise?

:That guarantee is included in clauses 22 and 23 of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman recognises the importance of the supplementary benefit and family income supplement considerations, and local education authorities understand the discretionary arrangements which they have to make for the disadvantaged. That point will be well preserved.

I turn now to future arrangements. It will be for each local education authority to make its own decisions about the school meals service it wants to provide, including the charging policy, under the powers that we propose to give the authorities. Although it will be for each local education authority to decide its own priorities in the light of its own circumstances, the Government's policy of safeguarding educational standards is well known to all authorities. [Interruption.]

Once again, I can understand by the derisive jeers from the Opposition Benches that Labour Members acknowledge that my right hon. and learned Friend has made a series of speeches up and down the country in the past four months underlining the importance that the Government attach to the core curriculum and to the secondary survey, and the way in which the Government will concentrate on educational standards. That was not done under the previous Labour Administration.

The indication given by the Government of where economies should be made is clear beyond doubt. Labour Members must begin to understand that. We expect expenditure on the school meals service to be halved. Two important elements in achieving that are less expensive meals and a lower average subsidy to the paying pupil.

On the information so far available, authorities are planning to maintain a traditional midday meal for primary pupils, and many will continue to give a substantial, though reduced, subsidy. With 75 per cent. of primary pupils at present taking the school meal and 63 per cent. paying for it, that would be a reasonable policy for authorities to adopt. By contrast, only 40 per cent. of secondary pupils are paying for a meal—in some authorities it is less than 20 per cent.—which suggests that for many children the traditional meal is not what they want.

Most local education authorities—[Interrruption.] It is depressing that hon. Gentlemen find it so easy to laugh.

It is nonsense when quite clearly the Shadow spokesman for education is not au fait with what is happening in secondary schools. It has been the trend of the past 10 or 12 years, and the hon. Member for Bedwellty should understand that.

Most local education authorities are therefore planning to provide cafeteria-type meals, with items individually priced and the choice of items being not only what nutritionists think is good for children but also what the children prefer. Many authorities have been experimenting with such provisions under present legislation.

They find a number of advantages. First, there is less waste because children choose only what they want to eat. Secondly, there is more customer satisfaction, demonstrated by the considerable increase in the number of children staying for a meal. Thirdly, there is better control of the children. Many head teachers prefer to have the children on the premises rather than have them going outside. Fourthly, there is more job satisfaction. The children's interest in the food encourages the kitchen staff. Finally, overall reduction in net expenditure results in increased taking, which means increased income. Those are positive advantages that authorities have found from experiments over the past few years. I suggest that hon. Gentlemen visit the regions in Scotland and the LEAs in this country to find out what is happening.

All those factors suggest that authorities generally are approaching their task in a responsible manner. From comments made, I can only assume that hon. Gentlemen have no confidence in their regional or local authorities and the role of local government.

It is therefore right for the Government to facilitate the transition to a less expensive service in 1980–81. Even though the local education authority's role in assisting parents by providing a school meals service must be secondary to its main task of educating the children—and it must surely be accepted that it is primarily the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are adequately fed—authorities are clearly intending to maintain a service that provides what children want at a price that parents are prepared and can afford to pay.

The general conclusion to be drawn from these points is that, given the need to curb public expenditure, the Govern- ment are right to seek to relax the out-of-date and rigid controls over what local education authorities provide as a school meals service. We also have our priorities right in identifying the school meals service as one in which there is scope for achieving a substantial reduction in net expenditure.

The hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. I shall not give way, as many hon. Members wish to speak.

It is right that the Government should do what they can to assist local education authorities to achieve the required reductions, in particular by raising the charge for school meals by 5p this term.

I therefore suggest that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches would do well to read the legislation more closely and work out what lies in store. I invite my hon. Friends to reject the motion.

9.32 pm

I shall be brief, as a number of hon. Members wish to voice their utter dismay at this mean and contemptible action. The Minister has said that the charge for school meals was being increased to help solve our economic difficulties. That is the baldest statement that I have heard from any Minister. Perhaps he will reconsider it when he studies the Official Report tomorrow.

It is true that the previous Government increased prices, but that must be compared with the present increases in VAT, the 30 per cent. increase in gas prices and substantial rent and rate increases, which will especially affect the poorer sections of our community. There are many other increases that will result from this Government's policies. It is galling that the Government should further burden the poorer sections of our community with this mean and contemptible charge.

The Minister repeats the point that free school meals are sacrosanct, but, from reading the regulations and the briefing that he no doubt has from his advisers, he should know that that is not true. The truth is that local authorities will be allowed to make their own charges. In Scotland there are one or two rather mean, Conservative-controlled authorities. Such authorities can raise the price of school meals beyond 50p or 70p a day after tonight. The Minister has repeatedly said that responsibility and freedom is being given to local authorities. He now has an opportunity to deny that.

:Tonight we are debating a proposal to raise the price of school meals from 30p to 35p. That is the maximum charge that any authority can make. The question of any future freedom depends on whether the Education (No. 2) Bill is enacted. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is totally wrong to say that, as from tomorrow, local authorities will be able to charge what they wish.

When the Bill is enacted, the Secretary of State will have to rethink his words. I have a copy of a circular that was sent by the Secretary of State for Scotland to local authorities on 2 October 1979. I shall quote from that circular to Scottish local authorities in order to help the Secretary of State for Education. Paragraph 5 says:

"Under the present regulations education authorities are required to provide meals free of charge for children from low income families."
That refers to children who receive free school meals. The Minister said that they were not at risk. It continues:
"In line with the Government's policy of allowing greater discretion to local authorities, the intention is to let education authorities decide entirely for themselves".
That has stated the case clearly. The circular comes straight from the office of the Secretary of State for Scotland. It goes on:
"decide entirely for themselves what provision should be made in future for children from low income families".
It will not depend on the Secretary of State and his colleagues. That circular has already gone out to Scottish local authorities. Again:
"The legislation wil seek to give authorities who decide to make provision for children from low income families a variety of options".
Looking at some Scottish local authorities, we know what that means.

I am sorry that I did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor). However, I heard her remark about vouchers, and it was a valid point. I therefore ask the Minister to repudiate the actions of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I invite him to rethink the advice that he gave me earlier.

:The hon. Gentleman must understand that his point has nothing to do with tonight's regulations. He may have a perfectly good point, but it is relevant to a debate on the Education (No. 2) Bill. With respect, it has nothing to do with tonight's regulations.

I made that point when I quoted from the circular. The Secretary of State has not listened to the comments that are made in his own circular. Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that we shall have only a 5p increase? Perhaps the Minister will confirm that it is only 5p—however iniquitous that 5p may be—and that there will not be any more impositions upon the poorer sections of our community.

The Secretary of State is tackling a serious social issue. This charge will endanger the social fabric of our community. The Secretary of State for Education and Science must understand that. I do not wish to be too personal, but perhaps his background and the area that he represents do not reflect the problems that those of us who represent city centres experience in our advice surgeries.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has already received warnings from his colleagues. One of those warnings was prophetic. The hon. Member for North Angus and Meatus (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) spoke in Perth in 1978 and indicated the type of legislation that we would receive from his Government. The hon. Member is now the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I shall quote what he said at a Tory conference in Scotland. Although he was talking about militants on the Left, he gave a warning to the Prime Minister when he said:
"On the other hand, the Conservative Party is showing a tendency to react to extremism of another sort, probably most apparent in economic policy."
When I read that in the Glasgow Herald on 15 May 1978, I was sceptical that even the Tory Party would bring such legislation forward so early in the life of the Government.

Those of us who have had some experience in the Scottish Office realise that almost 500,000 Scottish children take school dinners and 150,000 of them get free dinners. We still believe that there is a serious threat to free school meals as we know them. The Minister should rethink the position, or the reaction that will come from the Scottish constituencies will be one of extreme anger. I repeat that this is a mean and contemptible action for any Government to take.

9.42 pm

Life would be much simpler if all we had before us was these regulations or a single clause in a simple education Bill that gave local authorities a little more flexibility in the organisation of school meals and the charging of individual children for them. There are some general principles on which I am in agreement with the Government, and they affect my attitude to the regulations. That is rather different from my attitude the Education (No. 2) Bill.

In present circumstances we cannot expect school meal subsidies to command as large a share of the education budget as they do now, keen though I am on the school meals service. I believe that people who can afford to pay for school meals should be doing so, and I believe fervently—and the Government are supposed to believe this, too, but there is very little evidence of it—that we must so organise our provision of benefits, such as free school meals and school transport, as to do away with the poverty trap. We must end the situation in which people are better off out of work than in work and better off not doing overtime than doing it. The Government are trying to apply the first two principles in the regulations. However, they are abandoning the third principle in just about everything they are doing in the area of school meals.

If we are to achieve the various objectives that I have just mentioned and at the same time retain the fundamentals of a school meals service of proven worth and recognised high standards which we damage at our peril, there are certain things that we must do.

We must give local authorities more flexibility on charging. That is why I cannot, in conscience, oppose their having the opportunity to make a 5p increase in school meal prices. To deny them that measure of freedom is to make impossible all the other things that we should be doing about the service. It follows from that that we must also try to make more flexible and sensitive provision of aid for parents whose children need school meals but cannot afford them.

That is the exact opposite of what the Government want to do in their Bill, because in that measure they draw the stockade more narrowly around the statutory poor, reduce the numbers of people receiving benefits, and give them the total benefit of free school meals if, and only if, it can be shown that those children do not get enough to eat. If there were more Members in the House tonight who were not serving on the Education (No. 2) Bill Committee, it might have been instructive for them to have heard a few things about the Government's intentions. However, this is not the right occasion for it. Suffice it to say that the basis of the Government's proposals on free school meals is to provide them for children on supplementary benefit and family income supplement. Therefore, the local authority must satisfy itself on what those children had for breakfast and what they are having for tea. If they are not getting enough food, the local authority has a statutory obligation to provide them with a free school dinner.

However, those who are just outside that net do not get these benefits and do not even get the advantage of the local authority inspecting their breakfast and tea menus in order to see whether they need some kind of midday provision. The Government need to make a much more intelligent provision and give some really serious thought to the matter.

I stress the fundamental importance of ensuring that parents on the line between supplementary benefit and family income supplement and low working wages should not be penalised for working and putting in extra effort. That will happen if school meal prices are increased and present free school meals scales are not revised. It will happen if we forget to tie up social benefits and taxes. It will happen as a result of their Education (No. 2) Bill.

I believe that local authorities should have that measure of flexibility which enables them to charge separately for individual items and to charge slightly more for school meals than they do now. The local authorities should be encouraged to continue a general school meals service but not to divide their pupils into the small company of those who have free provision and the remainder for whom they exercise no responsibility at all.

It would be inconsistent with that belief for me to vote tonight against allowing a 5p increase on the price of school meals. That provision is the only one in the whole range of the Government's proposals on school meals that I can conceivably support. I believe that the remainder of the Government's proposals will not achieve the objectives they have set themselves. They are liable to cause the most serious difficuties for those who have to carry out those proposals in our schools.

9.46 pm

One can hardly dispute that the proposed schools meals price increase is a very modest one and is probably one to which very few people will take exception, given that costs must go up. However, that is not really the subject of tonight's debate. This debate is taking place against the background of a debate on the floor above this Chamber.

It was on that basis that the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) made her opening comments. I heard most of them though not all, but in any case I have heard them before. Hon. Gentlemen have subsequently referred to the passage of the Bill we are now considering in Committee.

The Under-Secretary of State said that the prime object of the Bill was to restore to local authorities more control over the decisions that affect their education budget. Even as a new Member of this House, I feel qualified to talk about the pressures on local authorities over the last few years. I speak not only of Conservative-controlled authorities but of all local authorities.

Local authorities of every political persuasion have consistently campaigned, under successive Governments, for relief from some of the statutory requirements that have been added to other longstanding statutory requirements so that they might better cope with Government demands for reductions in expenditure.

Educational expenditure, however, is not sacrosanct, and as a former finance committee chairman, knowing the size of the education budget in my own local authorities, I know that those authorities could not conceivably hope to meet Government targets without revising education estimates. Because of what I call the statutory overload on local authorities, more and more they must look at, and attack, some of the basics of the fabric of education that we all believe should be preserved.

The local authority association which I had the honour and privilege of leading for some time, together with our sister organisation from the counties, made strong pleas to Mrs. Shirley Williams when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science, as local authority associations have done to the present Secretary of State in order to see that some of this statutory burden may be lifted off the local authorities. That is what the Bill intends. One cannot doubt that with £400 million or so involved, which is the cost of the school meals service, many people, faced with unpalatable alternatives, would prefer to see the extremely expensive umbrella that the service has become removed in order to allow local education authorities to preserve other more important parts of the education fabric.

The object of the exercise is to enable local education authorities to review their total budgets, and in that review they must turn first to ancillary services. School meals have over the years played an important part in education, but to hear Labour Members talk about the Education (No. 2) Bill one would think that the school meals service is to be completely abandoned. We are talking not about abandoning it but of giving the LEAs the opportunity to impose realistic charges. The measure before us is a step towards that end.

This debate is not taking place in isolation. It must be seen against a background of what is being said elsewhere. I make no apologies for reiterating the point upon which I started—that is, the paramount need for LEAs to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Bill to help them lower their costs. Only in that way will they be able to preserve the basic fabric of education.

The people voted overwhelmingly at the election for reductions in public expenditure. In providing for those reductions we have to recognise that on school meals the local authorities are in the best position to decide what is right for their areas. We are saying only that they should be allowed to do that and that they should not have this prescription put upon them by statute.

9.53 pm

I want to pursue the point raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) that we cannot discuss the regulations in isolation. He was right. We need to consider what is happening elsewhere, not just in terms of the Education (No. 2) Bill but also of the Government's policies for the family. We have to see this measure as just one part of an attack on families, both rich and poor. One can see how families have suffered in the past 20 years or so in a number of ways, but I want to concentrate on how they have lost out as the tax burdens have increased.

Any candidate in the last election will need no reminding that one of the moans from electors of all political views was about the increasing tax burden. That burden was not shared evenly. It moved in two ways. It moved against the poor, although that may not be of particular interest to the Conservatives. More important for tonight's debate, it moved against families with children, whether those families were rich or poor. That trend continued over a 15 to 20-year period under Governments of both parties.

One would have thought that when at last we had a Government who cut tax, those who had paid a disproportionate increase in the burden of taxation would benefit most. What were the facts of the last Budget? It was a record tax-cutting Budget. Over £4·5 billion was cut from taxation, but only £8 million of that—an almost insignificant sum—went to families with children.

If families had received their fair share of the tax cuts—through increases in child benefit because the child tax allowance was abolished—the child benefit would be £8 per child, and there would not have been murmurs from the Labour Benches about raising the price of school dinners to what Conservative Members consider to be an economic price.

We are objecting because it was families who disproportionately paid the increase in tax burden and lost out totally when the tax cuts came. To help finance those tax cuts, we are seeing a cutback in public services that affect families. That is the first reason why we shall be opposing the regulations that were gently presented by the Minister as a small increase of 5p. That is 5p on top of other increases and against the background of a Budget that ruthlessly discriminated against those with children, whether those families were rich or poor. It is of as much concern to Conservative Members as to Labour Members that rich and poor families lost out in that deal.

There are two other powerful reasons why the regulations should be opposed. If we examine the incomes of those with children, we see a significant increase in those who earn their poverty. The only data available on a comparative basis is for the period 1974 to 1977. The number of those who brought home poverty wage packets almost doubled in that period from 240,000 to 460,000. The numbers on supplementary benefit also doubled.

Of special importance to the regulations, and even more important when the Education (No. 2) Bill becomes an Act, are the numbers above that line—the notch group—who are outside the reach of FIS and supplementary benefits. That number doubled also. They are least able to afford to pay even 5p per week, let alone 5p per child per day, as the increased cost of school dinners. That links with the third reason why the increase should be opposed by Members on both sides of the House. It links into the effect on the poverty trap. It feeds into the argument that I understand is being conducted on the Education (No. 2) Bill upstairs.

The regulations would increase the price of school dinners. The Education (No. 2) Bill would increase massively the poverty trap. There are a number of eligibility limits. There is the supplementary benefit level, above that there is the FIS level, and way above that is the present level for eligibility for free school dinners. The Bill would concertina the eligibility limits. When a family loses eligibility for FIS, it also loses other benefits, including the right to free school dinners. Every price increase would make the poverty trap deeper because it is 5p per day, per child, magified over a week.

When the Bill becomes an Act, many low income families will face a marginal rate of tax in excess of 250 per cent. The Government told us of the incentive problems for high earners with an intolerable marginal tax rate of 83 per cent. that had to be reduced to 60 per cent. We opposed it but understood the reasons why it was done. However, it made the poverty trap that much more worse for those who earn their poverty.

The Government tell people to respond to incentives, but, knowingly or not, they have cemented a ceiling over the heads of the poor, making it almost impossible for them to escape from poverty by their own efforts or to respond to the Government's pronouncements about the importance of families improving their lot.

There are three powerful reasons for opposing the regulations. The first is that the Government, like others before them, have singled out for rough treatment those with children. The Conservatives claim to be the party of the family, and we know how crucial the family is to a free society.

The second reason is that the number of those just above the eligibility limits for family income supplement and supplementary benefit has increased significantly over the past few years. That leads on to the third reason because it will make the poverty trap that much more severe when the Education (No. 2) Bill becomes law.

10.1 pm

There has been a lot of hot air about nothing over the increased charges, though I grant Labour Members that it is sincere hot air.

At a time of rising energy and food costs and rising wages, an increase of 5p cannot be regarded as excessive. It is only about 16 per cent. and, set against the average current level of wage increases, it is not unreasonable.

However, I agree to a certain extent with the hon. Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) about the dangers of the poverty trap, but we cannot deal with that by refraining from making any increases in charges for services to the public, the vast majority of whom can afford those charges.

There are three aspects of dealing with the poverty trap. I do not suppose that they will be wholly supported by Labour Members. First, we must continue the process started in the Budget of taking more people at the bottom end of the income range out of the tax net.

Secondly, we must start to tax short-term social security payments.

Of course it is important to raise tax thresholds, but that can be done effectively for families with children only by increasing child benefits. There was no increase in last year's Budget.

When talking of the poverty trap, we are dealing with the difference between those who are working and those who are not.

The other way of dealing with the poverty trap is to stop the automatic indexation of social security benefits. When workers in private industry or nationalised industries are suffering the cruel winds of the current depression and the increase in oil prices and their companies, whether private or, for example, the British Steel Corporation, are telling them that they must accept wage increases of 5 per cent. or 6 per cent., or even no wage increase because the money is not there, it is unacceptable that those who are not working should be granted a l7½ per cent. increase in short-term social security benefits.

I think that all hon. Members will agree that one of the great worries of society in recent years has been the lack of parental responsibility. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) dealt with that at length in Committee today and he pointed out that the school meals service had taken the place of much of what parents ought to do.

Most of us would accept that the first responsibility of any parent is to see that a child is clothed, fed and given a good home. It seems not unreasonable that people who can afford it—the vast majority—should be asked to pay for the feeding of their own children. Even after this modest increase, school meals will still be substantially subsidised by the rest of the population.

I have had very few letters of complaint from constituents about the proposed changes in school meal charges and about the giving back to local authorities of the power to fix the level. The population accept that the feeding of their children is their responsibility. I have had 20 times as many letters on the question of school transport. For some unknown reason, parents seem to expect school transport to be highly subsidised but do not expect school meals to be subsidised.

It has tended to be overlooked that local authorities need this money at this time if they are to stay within their cash limits and meet the Government's guidelines. It is all very well the hon. Member for Bedwellty laughing. The hon. Gentleman should realise that the difficulty that local authorities have in remaining within cash limits this year is very much the responsibility of the previous Government. Their incomes policy, for what it was, was destroyed in a welter of industrial disputes last winter. It is the wage increases in the local authority sector that have continued to be fuelled throughout this year by the infamous Professor Clegg that have put such a strain on local authorities.

Local authority associations—certainly my authority in Humberside—have requested the Government to allow them to increase the price of school meals at this time. I submit that it is far better to have relatively small rises at frequent intervals than to keep putting off grasping the nettle, like the previous Government, who then had to raise the price of school meals at one go by 10p.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that from now on this Government will not have the guts to grasp the nettle? They are giving so-called freedom to local authorities without giving them the means of exercising that freedom because of the cuts that are being imposed. If the hon. Gentleman understands that, he should join us in the Lobby.

I have listened to the hon. Member for Bedwellty over the last few weeks for more hours than I care to remember, and I would have thought it was clear that the Government have grasped the greatest nettle by giving this power back to local authorities. It is a load of nonsense, as the hon. Gentleman knows, to say that the cuts will stop local authorities from exercising the power. The local authorities, if they wish, and if they think that they can use their resources better in the classroom, will be able to put up the price of school meals even higher. It will be their decision. I cannot see how the hon. Gentleman can claim that the Government have refused to grasp the nettle.

This increase is justified. It is important to reduce subsidies, wherever possible, to bring the economy under control. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides are anxious to see the level of interest rates reduced. Those levels will be reduced only if public sector borrowing is brought under control, which means reducing public expenditure.

10.8 pm

We have heard some extraordinary speeches from the Conservative Benches. The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) seeks to cure the poverty trap by increasing poverty. That was what he advocated with every word.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I listened with care to the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who is known to be very concerned about these matters and who was very fair. I do not want to make a party political point, but did not that hon. Member make clear that the numbers of people on supplementary benefit and family income supplement had doubled during the period of the previous Government?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman expects me to blush about that. The more we look at truth and this Government's abysmal behaviour, coming on top of the implied criticism, the better we shall be at securing the answers. Of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) was correct in saying that, as he was correct in saying that the crucial question was the large numbers of people coming immediately on top of that level.

I have referred to the hon. Member for Bridlington, who sought to cure the poverty trap by increasing poverty. His hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) advanced the extraordinary proposition in favour of an increase in the charge for school meals that it was the only way to obtain money to preserve the fabric of education—that it was better than cutting direct education facilities. That hon. Gentleman was a pilot. It is rather like the pilot's telling the passengers when he runs them aground "It is better to be running aground than sinking you."

There is another way of providing money for education, if authorities are constricted by the cash limits. That is to increase the cash limits. There is an alternative to increasing the price of the school meals. That is to bring in a supplementary rate support grant if necessary.

May I appeal to the House. Interventions will stop someone from being called. A large number of hon. Members still want to speak in the debate.

I was overcome by my usual generosity, Mr. Speaker, as you were when you called me after I had waited an hour.

The argument that I have just described is nonsensical. The truth is that the increase in the price of school meals has nothing to do with providing money for education facilities, because they can be paid for in other ways if the Government are prepared to pay for them. Nor is it much to do with the Under-Secretary's statement that halving expenditure on school meals does not destroy the school meals service. He said that we must restrict public spending to a level compatible with increasing growth and providing incentives.

Has the Government's policy succeeded in increasing growth? Has it given any evidence of increasing incentives? Every economic indicator has become worse since the Government took office. Virtually every action by the Government is increasing our economic problems. None of the Government's actions has resulted in increasing incentives. The one opportunity of increasing incentives through their tax cuts—because they went only to the rich—was for increased investment in this country. But then the Government scrapped exchange controls. What madness this Government are embarked upon!

Those are the reasons for raising the price of school dinners. It is not because people voted for cuts in public expenditure. They voted for cuts in taxes. The average earner is in fact paying more in taxes under this Government than he was paying before, because increased value added tax results in increased payments for various products. Not only are we seeing the destruction of the services, but we are seeing it for a tawdry political purpose—winning an election and giving hand-outs to the rich.

If the Government want to know where money can come from to pay for that, I shall tell them. We have heard talk tonight about the need to cut public expenditure and thus reduce taxes to give incentives. Defense expenditure is now running at £8,000 million a year. I shall tell the House the contribution made by a family of four on average earnings. An average earner with four in the family is paying £12 per family per week—and the Government talk about the need to cut taxes. The people of this country are indeed heavily taxed for this—not to solve the problem of poverty, not to save and improve our education service—and the result is that the Government have carved their way into every one of our social services.

Do not the Government understand the importance of school meals? When I was a teacher, we used—and I hope this continues—the school dinner period—and we got a very large number of children coming to meals at that time—for other things. I did five days a week of extra-mural work. I ran a music club, teaching children music and songs, and so did the other teachers. It was a valuable part of the children's education.

But what happens when we get on to the Yorkie and crisps concept? If kids are going to buy at a snack bar, they would much rather go outside the school. So the kids drift, and that is when they get into difficulties and trouble. Yet the Conservatives are the people who talk about delinquency and law and order. They are the party that claims to speak for the family—a family of four paying £12 a week on defence expenditure; a family of four paying an additional 5p per head per day on school meals.

We are told that it is a small amount, that it is only—that was the word used—a 16 per cent. increase. But the price of the meals went up in September, and since September, putting the two increases together, it has gone up by 40 per cent. Who says that is a trivial increase?

The people who claim to represent working-class areas like Bridlington and Garston had better learn how the people of this country live, they had better give them a bit more credit for proper understanding and they had better reverse their policies smartly before they destroy the very fabric of many of the social services.

10.17 pm

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) told the truth when, at the end of some six and a half hours of debate on school meals—and we have come here today to make it about nine hours—he said that it was impossible to discuss this increase in isolation; and of course it is. The regulations say:

"These regulations shall come into operation on 4th February 1980."
The Bill, which we have been discussing for some 80 to 90 hours now, says on school meals and transport, in clause 22 (3):
"A local education authority—
(a) may make such charges as they think fit for anything provided by them."
Therefore, it is impossible to isolate the 5p on 4 February from the reality of the situation. A Bill has been rushed through with indecent haste, to the extent that the Minister gabbled through his set speech at such a speed that we could hardly understand what he was saying. We understood what he was saying, of course, but that is exactly what has hap- pened with the Bill; it has been rushed through at great speed, and this 5p is only the tip of the iceberg.

My hon. Friends have pointed out that, in the midst of this increase in prices, the Government have offered the steel workers 2 per cent. when a 40 per cent. increase has gone on meals. What an insult and a provocation that is. These are the realities. The 5p on meals which we are debating now cannot be isolated from the fact that there are nearly 1½ million unemployed. The Conservative Party will make it 2 million. Prices are rocketing, the Government are trying to hold wages down, and we are asking people who cannot afford it to pay another 5p on school meals as a prelude to paying whatever any local authority asks them to pay when the Bill goes through in time for the next financial year. The Government are rushing the Bill through, in order to get the money in, so that 5p will only just be being paid when people will immediately have to pay more for meals without the same nutritional value as the meals which the children have been getting so far.

As I said this morning in a speech on the same topic, there is an appalling lack of understanding on the part of the Conservative Party. It does not understand precisely what it is doing. It does not understand that it cannot continue to provoke working people without a major kick-back. If the Government were trying cold-bloodedly to plot the ruin of the British economy, they could not do it more brilliantly. The charitable way of describing the increase of 5p is to say that the Government are innocent and do not know what they are doing. The real way—possibly the uncharitable way—is to say that they know exactly what they are doing and that they are trying to mulct those who cannot afford to pay out more money.

My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) said that an additional 3 per cent. on the defence bill will amount to about £12 per week per family.

No. An additional 3 per cent. would make matters even worse. I said that a family of four on average earnings pays about £12 a week in tax for the total defence budget. That is in value added tax and direct tax.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The reality is that we are talking about another £250 million on the defence bill. It is laughingly called defence. Are the Russians about to attack us overnight?

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends had better get under their beds. When is it coming? Is it coming next Tuesday afternoon? Let us not lose sight of reality. The Americans have it all.

The extra 3 per cent. will mean £250 million. We are told that the Exchequer is poverty-stricken. However, in the Education (No. 2) Bill another £60 million is to be provided for private schools. Where is the poverty?

We are talking about increasing the school meal charge by 5p when £250 million is to be directed to increased defence spending and £50 million or £60 million is to be spent additionally on private schools. Those are the schools of Conservatives. That is where all the children of Conservatives will go while our children will take all the cuts. That is the reality. The Government will try to cream off some of our children and charge those who are left as much as they can in addition to the 5p increase. These are the realities. The Government must think that we are daft and that we will not fight back.

Statutory school meals have been provided since 1944, and before. Now, their provision is in grave doubt. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) said that the extra 5p is not an isolated increase. As she said, it is a full-scale assault on the entire meals service. It is the tip of the iceberg. Following the increase, the Government will wade into us and our children. At the same time they will utter pious platitudes about trying to increase the standard of education. They think that we do not realise that the black paperites are trying to carve education into pieces as fast as they can go.

Implicit in the Education (No. 2) Bill is the decision whether to provide school meals. Many local authorities do not want to provide meals. Likewise, there are many Tory-controlled authorities that do not want to provide housing. Authorities will increase the school meal charge by 5p and at the same time they will be able to implement their own nutritional standards. They will be able to lower the standard of the meals that our children receive. Many of our children will go to school without breakfast.

Many of my hon. Friends are ex-teachers. There are some on the Conservative Benches. They know, as does any practising teacher, the condition of a child who comes to school in the morning having had no food. They know that it is even more difficult to teach such a child when there is no milk in the morning. These are the realities of teaching. If the ex-teachers on the Conservative Benches are not aware of the realities, they should learn about teaching.

The extra 5p will be levied and subsequently authorities will be able to charge whatever they like. The 5p increase is the beginning. The increases will not stop until the charge for a school meal is about 70p. That will happen within the year. That is the reality of snack meals. Children in the towns will be put on the streets during dinner time. This is a major social change that will have far-reaching consequences.

It is said that many letters have been received about school transport but only a few about meals. It is not understood that parents do not know exactly what is to happen to school meals as a result of the Bill. When they realise what they will have to pay, especially when there are three or four children going to school, the kick-back will rapidly put a Labour Government back in power. Let no one make any mistake about that. As I said this morning, the Tory Party is like Scrooge without the last redeeming chapter. They just do not understand.

The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins), who got in because he had the initial 'R'and was confused with our R. Atkins, makes a practice of never making a speech in the House. He merely makes rude rejoinders. He is welcome to do that. It shows him up and not me.

The reality is that we shall have hungry children in our schools who are unable to be taught properly because in many cases they will have had no breakfast and there will be no milk in the middle of the morning.

The increase in the price of meals is opposed by most teachers, who also oppose the Education (No. 2) Bill. Every teachers' organisation and every voluntary organisation opposes what the Government are doing.

In conclusion, may I say that the 5p increase was not opposed, I am sad to say, by the Liberal Bench. That is unfortunate, because one Liberal Member has fought valiantly all the way through on the subject of meals. Every speech made by him was directly in line with our thoughts. Yet he failed to see that the 5p increase was directly linked with the Bill. We should all go into the Lobby and oppose the 5p increase knowing that at the same time we are consciously opposing the Bill.

10.26 pm

The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) said that he had spent some hours in Committee upstairs listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). My only regret is that he learnt nothing during that period. If he had been listening closely, he would have learnt something. The hon. Member has a curious mentality. He dismisses the 16 per cent. increase in the cost of school meals as a mere triviality, yet he complains bitterly if workers ask for a 6 per cent. increase in wages. That is the psychology—costs must rise right across the board for working people, but they must not ask for any increase in pay.

We have already seen an increase of 40 per cent. as a result of the additional charges on school meals. What we have not had from the Government tonight is a reason for bringing this statutory instrument before us. I listened carefully to the Minister's tired apologia. His speech reminded me of what my old friend and mentor, Willie Ross, said about the speech by a former Minister. He said that there were three things wrong with the hon. Gentleman's speech: first, he read every word of it; secondly, he read it very badly; and, thirdly, it was not worth reading in the first place. We have had nothing whatever from the Government, apart from the old cliche about the state of the economy.

What puzzles me as someone who is not a member of the Committee discuss- ing the Education (No. 2) Bill is that we have been told that one of the purposes of that Bill is to allow local authorities more freedom and flexibility. Why could not the Government have waited until that Bill was passed? That would have allowed local authorities to take care of the matter themselves.

The Government have a curious split personality. On the one hand, they flourish the Bill and say "We are giving local authorities freedom, though we know that that is nonsense because we are not giving them any money." On the other hand, having imposed the guillotine motion and guaranteed that the Bill will go through, the Government bring these regulations before us. They say that it is only 5p on a meal, but it is 5p per day per child and it represents an increase of 16 per cent. Why could not the Government wait until the Bill was through before bringing this forward?

The Government have not increased the income level at which people can receive free school meals for their children. This Government are so obsessed with monetarism and cash that they totally neglect the effects that their policies will have upon our children. These continual increases in school meal charges—we have already had two and there are many more in the pipeline—will drive children out of the school meals service.

Let us not imagine for a moment that when children go to school they enter a completely isolated environment. There are shops near the schools and vans that go round "flogging" ice cream and crisps. All those things are commercially attractive. There is competition for such money as is available. What will happen—and there is clear evidence of this happening—is that parents will find it more and more difficult to pay the costs. Therefore, instead of giving the youngster 35p a day or whatever, as the charges go up, they will give them less, and that will be spent outside the school meals service.

I do not know why the Minister is smirking. He ought to have some sense of responsibility. That means that children will have a greatly reduced nutritional diet. The Minister ought to know that a great deal of discussion is now taking place about the nutritional value of the diet of school children.

Even if one were to concede—which I do not—that 5p is not a great deal, it means that we are putting at risk the health of future generations, and anyone who does not understand the importance of nutrition for schoolchildren does not have the right to be a Minister. For example, if girls go through a period of bad nutrition as they mature, their child-bearing capacity and capacity to bear children is reduced. That will also affect any children that they have. Therefore, this is not a trivial matter about which Conservative Members should snigger and laugh and say "It is only 16 per cent. or 17 per cent.".

As I have said, the Government are totally obsessed with monetarism. It would be far better to have a thorough examination of the school meals service. I am willing to concede that the service is not perfect and that a great deal ought to be done to make meals more attractive. I am also willing to concede that sometimes the buying pattern of food in some authorities is not all that it might be. Sometimes the very method of cooking does not do nutrition much good. However, I am willing to face those problems. That is the direction in which the thrust of the Government's attention ought to be going. They ought to be considering how to improve the school meals service, nutrition and benefits for working people.

Since the day that they came into office, the Government have shown themselves to be callous and short-sighted and to care nothing about human beings. That is why they will be condemned out of hand, and that is why I shall vote in the Lobby against the regulations.

10.32 pm

The Minister's introductory speech was like a cracked record. We have heard it all before, and those of us who serve on the Education (No. 2) Bill Committee have heard it many times before.

When we have complained about the Government attempting to cut back the school meals and milk service by more than £200 million in England and Wales and by £20 million in Scotland—a total cut of £220 million—the Minister and his colleagues claimed that they are not forcing this upon local authorities and that they were really giving them greater discretion and freedom. Freedom for what? What kind of freedom?

By means of the regulations, the Minister is on the one hand forcing the local authorities to increase the price of school meals and, on the other, by means of the inadequate rate support grant orders, he is denying the local authorities the adequate financial support that is necessary to maintain the existing school meals provision.

It is a distortion of the word "freedom" for Conservative Members to claim that they are giving more freedom to local authorities. In fact, they are tying their hands. I draw the attention of the House to a document published by the Scottish Education Department five years ago entitled "Catering in Scottish Schools". Recommendation No. 22 states:
"The charge to pupils for midday meals provided by the School Catering Service should continue to be a nationally prescribed charge but should not exceed one-half of the running costs (food and overheads) of producing them. The Government should continue to subsidise the Service through Rate Support Grant."
The Government are reneging on the three principles contained in that recommendation.

For a start, the Government will eventually do away with the nationally prescribed charge, although it is odd that they are continuing it in the interim. Secondly, by introducing this charge they are setting a bad example to local authorities, which afterwards will have their own discretionary charges. I understand that the cost of a school meal is now about 56p and not the 70p of which the 35p would be half. In other words, the charge to parents will be well over the recommended 50 per cent. The third principle outlined is that the Government should continue to subsidise the service through the rate support grant.

I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland with responsibility for education in the House tonight instead of the Under-Secretary of State who has responsibility for health. He proved his incompentence in Committee earlier today. We shall see how competent his hon. Friend is this evening. I remind him that the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) Order says:
"Provision for education is 4·2 per cent. in real terms less than the corresponding figure for 1979–80. It has been assumed the authorities will be able to effect substantial savings in expenditure on school meals, school milk and school transport as a consequence of the increased freedom they will have in providing and charging for these services under the Education (No. 2) Bill now before Parliament."
The Government virtually admit in their own document that they will not give local authorities adequate financial support to maintain the school meals service.

In Scotland the total subsidy for school meals is about £40 million per annum, which is about 4 per cent. of the total education budget in Scotland. About 53 per cent. of primary school children and about 33 per cent. of secondary school children take advantage of the school meals service. If we deduct the number receiving free school meals in Scotland alone, we are left with 287,000 paying for school meals. These are the children who will primarily suffer. The regulations will reduce the living standards of these children and their families.

The proposed increase is from 30p to 35p. The Government may say that previous Governments of various complexions have imposed increases, but this is the second increase from this Government in less than a year in office. They inherited a charge of 25p, which they raised to 30p in September, so we have seen a 40 per cent. increase in five months. That is far too much.

There have been several increases since September 1970, but this is the biggest percentage increase in real terms since April 1971. We all know who the Secretary of State for Education and Science was in April 1971. That was before the right hon. Lady had the keys to No. 10 Downing Street, but even at that time she had begun her onslaught on the educational and health standards of our children.

It is fairly obvious that a substantial increase in school meal charges will reduce the number of children having meals at school. The Scottish Education Department document to which I referred admits that. It says:
"there is a direct correlation between increases in the charge and the uptake of meals. The succession of modest increases in the charge from 1949 to 1957 had the effect of reducing the uptake from 40 per cent. to just below 30 per cent. of pupils present. During the eleven years from 1957 when the charge remained at 1/- and the meal was increasingly good value the uptake steadily increased to approximately 49 per cent. in 1968."
That was an all-time high in the provision of school meals, according to the fairly recent Scottish Education Department statistics.

If there is a reduction in the service, not only will the number of children taking school meals decrease but there will also be a reduction in the work force supplying those meals. In Scotland alone, it appears that there are 17,000 people employed in that service. Is it any wonder that trade unions such as NUPE and the General and Municipal Workers are concerned? The Minister who is replying also has responsibility for employment—or, rather, unemployment—in Scotland. Unemployment is once again over the 200,000 mark. That is the second highest total since the Second World War. The whole trend of the regulations will lead to yet another increase in unemployment in Scotland, where it is already too high.

There are plenty of examples of workers who receive subsidised meals in works canteens and even within the catering system of the House of Commons. It is well known that many company directors are on to a tax fiddle with free meals. What about the gravy trains? Honest taxpayers pay for that jamboree indirectly. However, instead of attacking those people, the Tory Government attack children—especially those from poor families. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) said, that is just one facet of a general attack on the living standards of children. The Government refused to increase child benefits in April. They reduced the purchasing power of family income supplement and supplementary benefit with which poor families have to try to feed their children. The Government have made a concerted attack on family life.

This Government are sacrificing children on the altar of doctrinaire monetarism. That is why Conservative Members should vote with the Opposition against the proposal to increase the price of school meals.

10.41 pm

I agree with my hon. Friends that we should vote against the regulations. I congratulate the hon. Members for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) and Bridlington (Mr. Townend) on their speeches. It must be difficult for them when they discover a Government Whip chasing along the corridors, saying that the Front Bench has been left on its own, trying to justify the regulations. The Front Bench needed someone to speak from the Back Benches. In those circumstances, those hon. Members did very well.

However to claim that an increase of 5p does not matter shows that Tory Members are out of touch with many of their constituents. This increase means an extra 50p a week to the family budget of many constituents—two children, five days a week. For many of my constituents, such an increase matters. Often constituents come to me asking why supplementary benefit has reduced their benefit by 12p, 20p, or 30p a week. To those people such sums of money are extremely important. It was, therefore, very glib of the hon. Member for Bridlington to say that 5p does not matter. For many constituents it makes a big difference.

We should also congratulate the Government on the regulations. At least the Government have been honest. They have said to the people of Britain that they are putting up the cost of school meals to pay for tax cuts. They have had the honesty to face the electorate and to tell them that that was the consequence. That may be contrasted with the Government's behaviour towards the Education (No. 2) Bill. They did not have the honesty to say that they were going to force up school meals even more dramatically in order to make a £200 million cut. They have passed that job to local authorities so that they can carry out the Government's dirty work. They have not had the honesty to stand up and say that they believe that school meals should go up by "x" amount in order to pay for tax cuts. That is despicable. They have asked local authorities to do their work and the Government expect them to take the blame.

It is sad that although the Government are raising the charges they have neglected another aspect that usually accompanies such a measure—the means test. The only argument that could be put in favour of the regulations would be that there has been inflation since the last increase in the price of school meals. However, if inflation is taken into account, the means test scale should also be raised. It is disgraceful to raise the charge without increasing the means test levels. In other words, the Government are saying to those who are within the means test scales "You should suffer most." If the Government are looking for groups in society to pick on, they should not choose these people. On the contrary, they should give them the most help.

The Government appear to be saying that they are not prepared to put up the child benefit this year. I hope that the Minister will give us an indication that, if child benefit is considered for increase next November, he will take account not just of his increase in school meals prices but of the increases that are being forced on local authorities during the summer.

Perhaps the Minister will also explain why the Government have decided on 5p for two months of this financial year. Do the local authorities need the extra money for those two months? Will the Government claw that money back from local authorities? Are the Government pre-empting the local authorities and attempting to start them off on a course of increasing meals by 5p every two months? What price do the Government expect local authorities to be charging by September next year? The Minister should come clean and give us some answers instead of leaving it to the local authorities to use their discretion. They do not have any discretion as long as the Government insist on cuts of £200 million.

We have heard from many Tories, in this debate and in Committee, of their concern for nutritional standards in schools. We would understand that a little better if the Minister would look at the whole question of tuck shops which are promoted in a lot of schools. Perhaps he should give a little guidance to head teachers about the provisions that are made to sell sweets, crisps and biscuits at break and dinner time in those tuck shops. If the Government want to improve nutritional standards in schools, they should pay a little more attention to that sort of practice rather than attack school dinners.

Finally, I hope that the Minister will tell us the implications for employment. How many children will stop having dinners as a result of the price increase? How many jobs will be lost? What will it cost in unemployment benefit? Are the Government certain that the extra 5p will represent much profit, taking account of the lost dinners, the lost benefit to the children, the loss of jobs and the extra unemployment benefit that they will have to pay? I hope that on this occasion the House will indicate in the voting the real lack of enthusiasm for the regulations. It was clear at the beginning of this debate that, apart from the Government Front Bench spokesmen, there was hardly anyone in the House who was prepared to support the regulations.

10.48 pm

We have had a very interesting debate on the regulations. I am sure that the Government Whips must be in a dilemma, having started off the debate with no Back Benchers present and then, having dragged in two or three hon. Members from the Tea Room, heard them make absolutely terrible speeches. The Whips must be wondering what they can do next to get some support for these measures.

This evening is a rather historic occasion because it is probably the last time that the House will debate a statutory instrument on increases in school meal charges. Also, it is the first time that the House has debated such a statutory instrument on school meal charges without the accompanying increase in income limits. That has never happened before.

Thirdly, this is probably the first time that a statutory instrument has been used as a paving measure for legislation presently going through the House. The Secretary of State's press release makes is abundantly clear that the sole purpose of increasing the price of school meals to 35p, pending the Education (No. 2) Bill coming on to the statute book, is to make it easier for local authorities to effect the savings that the Government are imposing on them as a result of that legislation.

Fourthly, this is a historic occasion because the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) will make his maiden speech on education. He has been a Minister since last May, but apart from Scottish Question Time each month has been running education in Scotland by a series of press releases. He has shunted off all his responsibilities in the House on to the other Under-Secretary, his unfortunate hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve), who is probably the most misunderstood member of the Government.

The Under-Secretary has said that the legislation was not designed to reduce the uptake of school meals. He was referring to the legislation that we are now discussing in Standing Committee. That is to mislead the House. What is planned in the financial memorandum to that legislation is that the Government will take £200 million from local authorities in England and Wales and £20 million from local authorities in Scotland. The same Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said in a parliamentary answer to me that the legislation would lead to a reduction in the uptake of school meals. That is the whole purpose of the legislation going through Committee and it is also the purpose of this statutory instrument.

As my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) said, we had heard the Minister's speech before. He did not read it too well this afternoon and he read it less well tonight. According to the Minister, the Government accept that children in Great Britain will suffer from malnutrition as a result of their decision to withdraw school meals. I do not misquote the Minister. He is on record as saying that this afternoon. He now has the audacity to come to the House and try to justify the statutory instrument to increase school meals to 35p.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) made a relevant speech today. Unfortunately hon. Gentlemen who were interrupting him from seated positions have left the Chamber. His point was that the figures for the increase in the number of people applying for supplementary benefit and family income supplement—which admittedly had doubled—were for the years 1974–77. We do not yet have the figures that would show the impact of the Labour Government's policy of pumping £1·5 billion in child benefits into the economy. Those figures would enable us to see what impact that policy had on the figures for earlier years given by my hon. Friend.

When we compare the Labour Government's £1·5 billion provision for child benefit with the Tory Government's paltry £8 million, we can look forward only in fear to the 1980s when we consider the Government's policy for child benefit. I am absolutely confident that when the figures for the period 1977–79 are available we shall see that the impact of that injection by the Labour Government of £1·5 billion has been substantial.

We are not talking about an increase of 5p in the price of a school meal for some 500,000 children in England and Wales. Nor are we talking about an increase for the 200,000 children in Scotland. They are the children who are getting free school meals at the moment. But in eight weeks' time, when the Government's Bill becomes law, we shall be talking about an increase from nothing to at least 35p for them. We are not talking about an increase of 5p for these children and the Minister knows that. We are talking about an increase, for the children who now get free school meals and who are not on child benefit or family income supplement—on the Secretary of State's own figures—of from nothing to 35p.

At his press conference in October last year, the Secretary of State said that there were 500,000 children in England and Wales in that category, and I suspect there are something like 100,000 children in Scotland in that category.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland took 13 weeks to answer a question from me about the effects of the Education (No. 2) Bill on the school meals service. He did not answer off the cuff. I take it that he thought long and hard about what he said. It took from 27 July to 22 October for him to produce the answer. He said that it was impossible for him to estimate the effect of the Bill on the price of a school meal. He had a guess at it and said that a school meal would be at least 60p once the Government's policies had been implemented as a result of the Bill.

That figure applied last October, so I think that we can add another 15p to that. The picture that is emerging tonight is that the effect for the children who are presently getting free meals but are not on family income supplement or supplementary benefit—children for whom my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead has done so much—will be an increase from nothing to nearly 75p. If the Minister wants to deny that and come back to the House later and apologise, we shall be pleased to accept his apology. That is what will happen as a result of the regulations and of the Bill.

It is no good the Secretary of State for Education shaking his head. Either he does not understand his own legislation or he does not understand the impact that it will have on those children and the damage that it will do in relation to the poverty trap. I am astonished, because I got the impression that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) intended to vote with the Government tonight. I hope that what we on the Labour Benches have said will have persuaded him to vote in our Lobby tonight because of the damage that the regulations are likely to do to the children I have defined.

:May I ask the Under-Secretary this? I am sorry: I meant to say "the hon. Gentleman". Can he give me the name of one local authority in England, Scotland or Wales that has said that the likely price of a school meal will be 75p?

I will come to that point in a minute—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am not surprised at the Secretary of State describing me as the Under-Secretary, because if I had an Under-Secretary as incompetent as his I, too, would be looking for another.

The position is that the Association of Metropolitan Authorities here in England and Wales and the other association that the Minister called in evidence are now on record as saying that it will be impossible for them to effect the savings that the Government want them to effect.

The Secretary of State has asked me to name one authority that has said that it will charge the full economic cost for school meals—

On the Under-Secretary's statement last October it was going to be 60p. Even if I grant the Secretary of State the concession that there has been no inflation since October last year—but that is not true—the price will be at least 60p. The authority in Hillingdon has already said that it will charge the full economic cost. I suspect that the Secretary of State's heart is not in what he is doing here. He is not that kind of a man. He is a compassionate person and he is being bumped along the line by the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Industry into doing many things he does not want to do. This nonsense about the freedom that is being given to local authorities—first by the regulations—means that, whether or not they like it, from 4 February they must charge 35p.

In case the Minister puts forward the argument about the increase that was applied by the previous Labour Government, let me say that I accept that the increase applied in 1977 was 67 per cent. for a four-year period from 1975 to 1979. The Government are increasing the cost of meals by 40 per cent. in five months. I hope that the Minister will not throw out that hoary argument tonight. I hope that I have said enough to persuade Liberal Members—I know that I do not have to appeal to my right hon. and hon. Friends—to join us in the Lobby and reject these despicable statutory instruments.

11 pm

:The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) is lucky to have had the freedom of the House to make such remarkable misrepresentations, not only about the regulations that we are debating but about the Education (No. 2) Bill. He is misleading the House about the Bill. He should stop to consider the insults that he is hurling at local authorities, knowing that they will have discretion, under the Bill, to make decisions and to deal with school meals. To suggest that local authorities, whether Labour or Conservative-controlled, would act in the manner that he has suggested is, to say the least, extremely irresponsible.

When the hon. Gentleman referred to increases in the price of school meals made by the previous Labour Administration, I thought that he would point out to the House that the last increase, from 25p to 30p, planned by his party, was allowed for in its expenditure White Paper and in the rate support grant. It is too much to expect the hon. Gentleman to take these matters into account.

It cannot be said too often that education expenditure must not be exempt from the general reduction in public expenditure. In Scotland, milk, meals and transport cost about £60 million, of which £40 million is spent on meals alone. That is clearly the place to look for savings. It will not damage the real process of education. It is essential to have a realistic level of income from the service, and that means keeping school meal charges abreast of inflation. That was done in the last few years of the previous Labour Government.

The Opposition, and some of my hon. Friends, are quite right to care about low income families. It can sometimes be forgotten that the majority of families have income earners and a good standard of living and are not in need of a big public subsidy to buy food for their children. Throughout the debate that fact has been ignored. The majority of families in Britain are perfectly capable of feeding their children. To suggest otherwise is totally irresponsible, in this debate or anywhere else.

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. I am glad that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) accepted that point, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend). There is a great diversity of local circumstances, and that is allowed for in the Education (No. 2) Bill.

It is clear that there is a need for local decisions on the school meals service. In Scotland, the figures show that the uptake of meals at the end of last year in primary schools was 54 per cent. compared with a figure in England of 75 per cent. In secondary schools in Scotland it was 37 per cent. compared with 51 per cent. in England, making a total uptake in Scotland of only 47 per cent. at the last census compared with 64 per cent. in England. Clearly there must be something wrong with the school meals service in Scotland if the uptake is so low, bearing in mind that the figures include the provision of free meals.

The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) gave us a brief lecture on the difficulties and problems of the poverty trap and other related matters. We do not complain about that, but we should not ignore the families—clearly a majority in Scotland—who do not need to take advantage of the allowances. They use the education service but do not derive benefit from the large subsidies paid for the school meals servise. In discussing the question broadly, one must look at both sides of the picture.

No. Time is short and I have a number of other matters to deal with.

Let us consider the charge that local authorities cannot cope with the cuts in public expenditure. We read in The Scotsmantoday that the leader of the Labour group on Lothian regional council—the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth is groaning because it is bad news for him and his colleagues—has resigned in protest at the financial policies of the council, and he said that in his view reductions in public expenditure can be made without cutting services.

Order. The Minister is not giving way. The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) must resume his seat.

:On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to mislead the House?

What the Minister uses in the content of his speech has nothing to do with the Chair.

The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth overran his time considerably, leaving little time for me.

Why does the Minister not read the next bit of the report to which he referred?

If I read the next bit, I shall embarrass Labour Members even more and I have no wish to do that.

The only effect of the regulations is to raise the price of school meals from 30p to 35p—an increase of 16 per cent. No changes have been made to the conditions of entitlement to free meals or to the maximum charge of 15p for pupils receiving special education.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) made clear from his experience of local government that savings could be made, but our object is not just to save money on milk and meals. It is to save on ancillary services in order to protect the essentials of the education service from damaging cuts. It is to make savings that will enable us to preserve the planned pupil-teacher ratios and to make allowance to improve them, in the light of the difficulties of declining rolls in our schools. We also need money for developments to which many hon. Members on both sides attach importance, including the advancement of teaching and training in microelectronics in Scotland, on which I announced expenditure of £300,000 a few weeks ago. We want to set up a training centre in Scotland to study teaching methods in microelectronics. We can do all that by making better use of the resources available to us.

It is obviously right that education authorities should provide catering and other services at a reasonable cost. But there is more to education than school meals. It would have helped the House in this debate if there had been some indication that the Opposition were aware of that fact. The Government's insistence on higher standards in the classroom and their attempt to improve the education service generally enable me to recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the regulations.

Question put,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Provision of Milk and Meals (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1979 (S.I., 1979, No. 1686), dated 17 December 1979, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19 December, be annulled.

The House divided: Ayes 108, Noes 155.

Division No. 150]


[11.10 pm

Ashton, JoeHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Newens, Stanley
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Harrison, Rt Hon WalterO'Neill, Martin
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertHattersley, Rt Hon RoyPalmer, Arthur
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Haynes, FrankParry, Robert
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Pavitt, Laurie
Buchan, NormanHome Robertson, JohnPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Campbell-Savours, DaleHomewood, WilliamPrescott, John
Canavan, DennisHooley, FrankRace, Reg
Carmichael, NeilHowells, GeraintRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Huckfield, LesRobertson, George
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Hudson Davies, Gwilym EdnyfedRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
Coleman, DonaldHughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Rowlands, Ted
Conlan, BernardHughes, Roy (Newport)Sheerman, Barry
Crowther, J. S.Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Cryer, BobJones, Barry (East Flint)Silverman, Julius
Cunliffe, LawrenceKinnock, NeilSpearing, Nigel
Dalyell, TamLambie, DavidSpriggs, Leslie
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Leighton, RonaldStewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Dixon, DonaldLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Stott, Roger
Dormand, JackLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Douglas, DickLitherland, RobertTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Dunnett, JackLofthouse, GeoffreyThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLyons, Edward (Bradford West)Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Eadle, AlexMcCartney, HughWalker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Eastham, KenMcElhone, FrankWelsh, Michael
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)McKay, Allan (Penistone)White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorWigley, Dafydd
Evans, John (Newton)Marks, KennethWilson, Gordon (Dundee East)
Ewing, HarryMarshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Winnick, David
Flannery, MartinMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Woodall, Alec
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMarshall, Jim (Leicester South)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Foulkes, GeorgeMartin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)Wright, Sheila
George, BruceMaxton, JohnYoung, David (Bolton East)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Golding, JohnMitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Graham, TedMorris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Mr. James Tinn and Mr. Terry Davis.
Grant, George (Morpeth)Morton, George
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)


Adley, RobertFaith, Mrs SheilaMacKay, John (Argyll)
Alexander, RichardFenner, Mrs PeggyMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Ancram, MichaelFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)McQuarrie, Albert
Aspinwall, JackFookes, Miss JanetMadel, David
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Forman, NigelMajor, John
Beith, A. J.Gardiner, George (Reigate)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Garel-Jones, TristanMarten, Neil (Banbury)
Berry, Hon AnthonyGow, IanMather, Carol
Best, KeithGower, Sir RaymondMawhinney, Dr Brian
Bevan, David GilroyGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Biggs-Davison, JohnGrylls, MichaelMellor, David
Boscawen, Hon RobertGummer, John SelwynMeyer, Sir Anthony
Bowden, AndrewHamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Boyson, Dr RhodesHannam,JohnMills, Peter (West Devon)
Braine, Sir BernardHaselhurst, AlanMitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bright, GrahamHastings, StephenMoate, Roger
Brinton, TimHawksley, WarrenMorrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)
Brooke, Hon PeterHeddle, JohnMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHenderson, BarryMurphy, Christopher
Buck, AntonyHicks, RobertMyles, David
Cadbury, JocelynHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Neale, Gerrard
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hooson, TomNeedham, Richard
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Nelson, Anthony
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaHunt, John (Ravensbourne)Neubert, Michael
Chapman, SydneyHurd, Hon DouglasNewton, Tony
Churchill, W. S.Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickOnslow, Cranley
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelPage, John (Harrow, West)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElainePage, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Colvin, MichaelKnox, DavidPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Critchley, JulianLang, IanParris, Matthew
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Langford-Holt, Sir JohnPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Dorrell, StephenLatham, MichaelPenhaligon, David
Dover, DenshoreLawrence, IvanPollock, Alexander
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLe Marchant, SpencerProctor, K. Harvey
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lester, Jim (Beeston)Raison, Timothy
Dykes, HughLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Renton, Tim
Eggar, TimothyLuce, RichardRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Eyre, ReginaldLyell, NicholasRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fairbairn, NicholasMacfarlane, NeilRossi, Hugh
Fairgrieve, RussellMacGregor, JohnRost, Peter

Sainsbury, Hon TimothyStanley, JohnWaller, Gary
St. John-Stevas, Rt Han NormanSteel, Rt Hon DavidWard, John
Shelton, William (Streatham)Stevens, MartinWatson, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge-Br'hills)Stradling Thomas, J.Wheeler, John
Sims, RogerTebbit, NormanWickenden, Keith
Skeet, T. H. H.Thompson, DonaldWolfson, Mark
Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speed, KeithThornton, MalcolmYounger, Rt Hon George
Speller, TonyWaddington, David
Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)Wakeham, JohnTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Sproat, IainWaldegrave, Hon WilliamLord James Douglas-Hamilton and Mr. John Cope.
Stanbrook, IvorWalker, Rt Hon Peter (Worcester)

Question accordingly negatived.