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Clause 22

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 20, line 30, after 'supplement', insert

'or whose income level is less than a qualifying level to be prescribed by order by the Secretary of State'.

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 35, in page 20, line 30, after 'supplement'. insert

'or receive rent or rate rebate'.

No. 36, in page 20, line 30, after 'supplement', insert

'or whose income would quality them for assistance under any regulations made by the Secretary of State under clauses 17 and 18 of this Act.'.

No. 38, in page 20, leave out lines 36 and 37 and insert

'in relation to any pupil whose parents are in receipt of supplementary benefits or family income supplement.'.

No. 39, in page 20, line 41, at end insert

'or if they are satisfied that the effect of the charges under this section and section 23(3) would be to cause that pupil's family to be poorer than they would be if their income were reduced to Family Income Supplement or Supplementary Benefit level.'.

No. 40, in page 20, line 41, at end insert—

'(3A) The Secretary of State may make regulations specifying a maximum charge for an adequate meal.'.

No. 53, in Clause 24, page 23, line 16, after 'supplement', insert

'or receive rent or rate rebate'.

No. 84, in page 23, line 16, after 'supplement', insert

'or whose income level is less than a qualifying level to be prescribed by order by the Secretary of State'.

No. 54, in page 23, line 26, at end insert

'or if they are satisfied that the effect of the charges under this section and section 25(3) would be to cause that pupil's family to be poorer than they would be if their income were reduced to Family Income Supplement or Supplementary Benefit level.'.

We come now to another very important stage in the Bill—that which deals with the provision of school milk and school meals.

The amendment seeks to ensure that all local authorities shall have to provide free school meals for pupils from poorer families where the family is not on family income supplement or supplementary benefit, those categories being covered by the Bill as it stands. We feel that the Secretary of State should lay down income levels and that local authorities should abide by them in regard to the provision of free school meals. Grouped with the amendment are several other amendments which also deal with the question of entitlement to free school meals.

The clause that we are seeking to amend does several very important things. Overall, the effect of clause 22 will be to dismantle the school meals system as we know it in this country. The Government will be doing this under the guise of giving new freedom to local authorities, but it will happen nevertheless. The clause is a very serious one because it removes all nutritional standards from school meals provision. The idea is that in future, in regard to the school meals, the policy is to be one of "anything goes". A local authority will be free to provide whatever level of school meals it sees fit to provide. That is in contrast with the present system, under which certain nutritional standards are established by the Secretary of State and local authorities are obliged to abide by them.

The clause goes even further, in that it also removes the provision and the guarantee that all children from low-income families can get free school meals.

The clause will lead to a reduction in school meals provision, to higher charges for school meals throughout the country, and to many redundancies among the staff who at present are employed in the school meals service. We believe that the clause and the Bill will have a very serious and detrimental effect not only on the school meals service but also on the educational opportunities of the children.

When the clause was discussed in Committee, the Minister did not say at any time that he thought that school meals were a bad thing or that they should not be provided. Indeed, the Government are not seeking to cut this form of provision because they think it is wrong to make it. They are cutting it because they want to make savings in the education budget, and have decided that this is a vulnerable area in which local authorities should be free to cut as they wish.

Local authorities will take advantage of this clause in the Bill as a means of reducing their expenditure. They will also take advantage of it in increasing the price of school meals. The House should be clear about the kinds of prices that we are talking about. The price of school meals has already been increased once this month in anticipation of the passing of the Bill. The Under-Secretary of State will recall the debate that we had on that occasion. He will also recall the statement made by his right hon. and learned Friend, when the price increase was announced, that the increase had been made pending further increases in the price of school meals which will follow very shortly.

It is important also to remind the House that we now know the kind of level of prices that local authorities are proposing to charge in the very near future. Some authorities, such as Devon and Warwick, have already announced that they intend to go for a 45p charge immediately the Bill goes through. We know that the Government hope that the Bill will be passed in April. Northampton shire has already said that it intends to charge 55p in April. Other authorities have announced similar levels of charges. Some authorities have gone further and said that they intend to introduce a 60p charge from September of this year or from January 1981.

The increases in prices that we are talking about are not insubstantial; they are significant and very important. The Minister cannot simply shrug the issue to one side and say that the increases do not matter, or say, as he has said in the past, that when we talked about 50p or 60p school meals we were being alarmist and spreading fear and despondency. Our predications have been proved right, for proposals of the sort that we mentioned are now being adopted by many councils in this country. By this time next year the price of school meals in most areas will have more than doubled as a result of the Bill, at a time when the Government are giving no extra help to families in need and are refusing to increase child benefit or give extra family support.

4.30 pm

It is against that background that we have tabled our amendment. Our aim is to minimise the effect on those worst hit by the provision. We also wish to emphasise that there should be a national policy introduced and maintained by the Secretary of State, both in terms of the pricing and the nutritional value of school meals.

Children who receive free school meals in future will not be guaranteed a meal of any particular nutritional value. It is important that we do not shrug off the fact and say that nutritional values do not matter because everyone is well fed these days and children do not need a meal at lunchtime.

In Committee the Under-Secretary almost fell into the trap of saying that it did not matter what sort of meals were provided. He said that there were good reasons for including nutritional standards in the 1944 Act, but he implied that perhaps it did not matter if nutritional standards were now abolished.

However, the Under-Secretary also acknowledged that the changes and the abolition of nutritional standards would cause hardship and problems. Indeed, he even acknowledged that the Bill might bring about a little malnutrition among some children, but he shrugged that off and said that it did not really matter because only a few children would be affected. It is important that the hon. Gentleman was at least honest enough to admit that the Bill and the clause will cause problems.

In Committee many of my hon. Friends pointed out to the Under-Secretary much of the recent evidence about the importance of school meals in children's diets. Has the Minister looked up the articles and surveys, in The Lancet and elsewhere, which prove that school meals are necessary for the children who need a sheet anchor for their nutrition? If the Under-Secretary has not done so, I suggest that he should. He cannot remove all the conditions on the standard of meals to be provided by local authorities and expect that not to have detrimental results.

If the hon. Gentleman is willing to admit that it may have serious results it is incumbent upon him to look at the matter again. If he will not assure us today that he will reintroduce national nutritional standards, I hope that he will reconsider the matter before the Bill goes to another place and will change his mind.

If the Bill goes through, it will hit many children and families severely and one of its major impacts will be the increased charges provided for in this clause.

The clause will hit families who pay for school meals in the ordinary way, and it is important to remember that the majority of families allow and encourage their children to take school meals. More than 75 per cent. of junior children and more than 50 per cent. of secondary pupils take school meals. If the new charges are introduced many family budgets will be badly hit.

We have only to look at a typical family with two children to see what will happen. When the Bill was introduced in October the price of a school meal was 30p. Within a short time it will have doubled to 60p—an increase of £1·50 per child per week. If we take this clause with the other new charges that the Government hope to introduce, we see that the average family will have to spend on meals and transport more than £5 a week for each child, simply to send him to school and to provide him with a meal.

The hon. Lady is taking the maximum situation under all the circumstances. There will be alternative provision. Only one-third of the cost of school meals is represented by food; the rest is catering, administration and all the other bits and pieces. If they wish, families will be able to provide a nutritional meal for their children to take to school at less than the existing cost of a school meal.

The hon. Member would do well to read the Committee Hansards, because he would see that much evidence was brought before the Committee about the proposed charges that many local authorities have decided to introduce. If the authority charges 60p for a school meal, that will involve a cost of £3 per week per child. I know that the hon. Gentleman has reservations about the new transport charges proposed by the Government—he has tabled an amendment on that matter and perhaps the Government will take notice of it—but if the new charges are introduced the average family will have to pay £5 a week for each child. That is not an exaggeration. Indeed, depending on what happens to transport charges, it may be an underestimate.

The new charge of £5 a week simply to send a child to school will obviously cause hardship to many families, but some families will suffer even more than those who are paying the current rate for school meals. I refer to the families who are entitled to free school meals because they are low-income families.

Many such families will face an increase not from the current price of a school meal, but from nothing to 50p or 60p a day for each child. They will suddenly have to find £2·50 or £3 a week for each child. Those families where a parent is working, but not claiming family income supplement or supplementary benefits, will be severely hit by the Government's proposals. They will be forced deeper into the poverty trap. The balance will be tipped in favour of those families being better off not working.

Over the years we have heard a great deal from Conservative hon. Members about the problems of the poverty trap and how it is wrong that people should be better off on social security than in work. Yet this one measure will ensure that many more families are forced into the poverty trap and made worse off because they are working than they would be if they were on social security.

There has been some dispute about just how many families and children come into that category. When we first discussed the matter last year, the Secretary of State said that 500,000 children at present entitled to free school meals would lose that right as a result of the clause. In Committee, the Under-Secretary revised that figure. He said that only 300,000 children—I emphasise "only"—would lose their right to free school meals. What he failed to point out then, but has since acknowledged in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), was that the real figure is 450,000, because 150,000 children entitled to free school meals on income grounds do not take them up. Many of us know why. It is because there is a stigma attached to that entitlement. But all of the 450,000, on the Minister's now confirmed figures, will lose that entitlement if the clause goes through as it is.

The hon. Lady said that the additional 150,000 was accounted for in part by the stigma that often attaches to children being "free school meals children". Will she remind the Minister that under the Bill there will be a double stigma? The Government are to make it really hard for children to have free school meals, even if they are entitled to them. They will have to prove not merely that they are financially entitled to them, but also that they are in need of special provision, because the obligation to provide free school meals applies only where the local authority thinks that such provision is appropriate or necessary for the children.

The hon. Gentleman has made a valid observation. It was confirmed by the Minister in Committee in an interesting discussion about what made up a good breakfast and what judgments the local authority should use in determining who should have a free meal.

It is clear that many children will be at a disadvantage because of the Bill. Many families will be hit by the increased charges. Many thousands of children will be hit because their right to a free school meal will be removed. As the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) pointed out, those entitled to free school meals in the future will be put at an even greater disadvantage, because there will be a completely new category. Only children on family income supplement or supplementary benefit will be entitled to free school meals. That means singling out those children even more and increasing the stigma that often discourages children who need free school meals from taking advantage of their entitlement.

What do the Government want to happen as a result of the clause? Does the Minister want to see the break-up of the school meals system, the dismantling of all the present provisions? Does he want to discourage families from allowing their children to have school meals, or does he want to encourage them to pay the economic cost of the meals? If he wants them to pay the economic cost, he must be prepared to provide the income for them to be able to do that.

If the Government refuse to give more family support through child benefit and similar measures, the Minister should expect all those wage earners who have responsibility for children to make increased wage claims simply to cover the kind of increased charges that the Government are imposing on them. How- ever, I strongly suspect that he and his right hon. and learned Friend will continue to say, as do their right hon. and hon. Friends, that those who make large wage claims to compensate for increased charges are acting irresponsibly. All that the Government are concerned about is cutting public expenditure, not maintaining family support and the education service, which should be their first responsibility.

4.45 pm

The clause gives the pretence of local authority freedom. We have heard a great deal about that freedom, both from the Secretary of State and from his hon. Friends. But it is a pretence. It is not real freedom. It is a freedom without cash, a freedom simply to cut the existing services.

The Government are trying to pass the buck to local authorities. The Secretary of State is the person with responsibility for education services. It is he who should be protecting the services. He and his right hon. and hon. Friends are damaging the education service and education opportunities by dismantling the school meals service.

Our amendments are intended to try to minimise the damage that will be caused by the clause. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to accept some of them, because he has said that he is concerned about the effect of the clause on poor families. If he is concerned about the future of school meals or about the future welfare of the children who will be hit by the clause, he needs to think again about what he and his Government are doing, and to accept some of our amendments to give better safeguards for those children who need help most.

I rise to support the amendment and to speak to a number of the amendments grouped with it—amendments Nos. 36, 38, 39, 40 and 54, all of which are in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) or my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston).

The school meals service has a record to be proud of. It is a service of very high standards, a service that can point to a proven record of improved nutrition. It is one of the few parts of the education service that can be demonstrated to have had a precise improving effect. Therefore, we should be cautious about making drastic changes in it.

I do not deny that it is desirable to experiment both with the way in which meals are provided and served and with how we cater for those whose income does not allow them to use the system. Therefore, there are two kinds of experiment that I am anxious to encourage. One is in the establishment of better, more flexible income scales for help with school meals than exist under the present, rigid free school meals system. The other is in the provision of more choice of food, perhaps related to the purchase of individual items.

A great deal has been done on those lines, and a great deal can be done, within the framework of the present law. Some easing of the statutory provision may be necessary, particularly to develop cafeteria systems and to ensure that local authorities generally can operate a proper incomes scale, instead of the present free school meals system.

However, the provisions of the Bill do neither of those things. They very much worsen poverty trap problems presented by the way in which help is given to those who cannot afford schools meals. They go far beyond what is necessary to enable local authorities to run an efficient and inviting cafeteria system of meals for children within their areas. The Bill does a number of damaging things that these amendments are designed to prevent.

Even if these experiments in the provision of cafeteria services are pursued, has the hon. Gentleman been able to find out whether the Government will make extra allocations to enable local education authorities to meet the enormous capital cost of moving their school meals service from the current provision to a new space-age provision? Is he aware that the required equipment is costing West Glam organ county council £16,000 without putting even a slice of bread before any pupil?

The Government have no intention of putting more money into the school meals service. They are trying to take out as much as possible. Any experiments conducted under the present Government's arrangements must be of a limited nature. Any local authority that pours money into expensive new systems is likely to be making a great mistake. There is scope for limited experiments within capital investment already made. Most local authorities have made substantial capital investment in the school meals service in the post-war years. One has only to tour schools in one's constituency to see well-equipped kitchens, maintained to the highest standards of hygiene, that would be envied by any commercial concern and by any public health inspector who know the standards that exist in some commercial restaurants and cafes. We should be loth to waste or disregard what has been achieved.

Unless the Bill is amended in the ways that have been suggested, much damage will be caused. We shall leave the way open for local authorities to provide no school meals at all, except for a limited number of children. We shall place no limit on the cost of meals. We shall create a terrible poverty trap problem.

The hon. Gentleman mentions a matter with which I had not intended to deal, but it is a fact, particularly in a constituency such as mine, that a great number of people, who are not very well paid, do a very good job within the school meals system and contribute a great deal to the welfare of the school. In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) testified that the school meals staff often played as big a part in educational welfare and pastoral work in schools as any of the teaching staff. These people will be put on the scrap-heap as a result of some of the Bill's proposals.

The Bill would leave the way open for a situation in which there would be no school meals at all for the vast majority of children. Meals would be available only to those of families receiving supplementary benefit and family income supplement. The effect will be severe in certain circumstances. Families with both parents working who have hitherto relied on the school meals system to ensure that their children get a decent mid-day meal will he especially hit. These are often the families that depend on two wages. They are families on low wages.

Single parent families will be badly hit. The single mother depends on her child getting a hot meal at mid-day so that when she returns home after a hard day's work she is not obliged to cook a full meal for herself and the child. The Government now seem to be saying, through this and other aspects of the Bill, that single mothers should not worry and that instead of going out to work and trying to pay their own way, it would be better if they received State benefit.

By accepting State benefit, the Government seem to say, the school meal will be free and the single mother will be better off in every way. If the mother goes out to work there will be no school meal provision for the child as her earnings will be too high. Why should the Government say this to people who want to exist by their own efforts and not depend on State benefits?

I have listened with care to the hon. Gentleman. Will he give some examples of the areas that have announced that they will abandon all school meals?

The Secretary of State has left local authorities in an extraordinary position. He should not open that issue. Local authorities are told to plan their school meals provision next year on the basis of a Bill that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not yet got through Parliament. The provisions may, we hope, be changed in this and other respects. Some local authorities have announced terrifying proposals that will put school meals far beyond the reach of families earning any ordinary country working wage. Other authorities may find, not next year, but the following year, that the system can be run only by making the minimum provision for those on supplementary benefit and family income supplement and none for the remainder.

The hon. Gentleman says that, in many areas, there would be no provision for school meals under the Bill. Will he justify that by saying in what areas he believes it will happen?

I have said that the Bill leaves the way open for a local authority not to provide any school meals except for those on supplementary benefit and family income supplement. Some authorities, including mine in Northumberland, have said that they do not want to do that. Nor do they want to get rid of free school transport. The Secretary of State, replying to a question from me, has said that authorities that fail to achieve the massive savings for which he asks must find savings in the mainstream of education to make up for indulging in the luxury of providing children with school meals and enabling them to get to school without paying large fees for transport.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot tell the House that authorities can disregard what he is asking them to do and make all the provisions for which the Opposition are asking and at the same time deny that he intends to penalise those authorities by ensuring that they pay for their savings in the mainstream of education. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying to authorities, particularly those in large rural areas and those with large numbers of families just above the family income supplement level, that their general education standard must be lower than those authorities that find it easier to comply with what he asks. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has left authorities in an absurd position.

If school meals provision is either removed or made prohibitively expensive in large scattered rural areas, a whole series of further problems arise. Children in those areas face an enormously long school day. They leave for school at 7·15 am or 7·30 am and do not return home until 5·15 pm or 5·30 pm. Their journey often means changing buses or waiting at the end of a farm track for a car or bus to pick them up. They often arrive at school cold and wet having waited for transport in cold and adverse weather conditions. They, above all, need a hot meal at school to sustain them.

These same children have to attend schools in distant towns. Ministers seem unable to appreciate the concern of parents whose children, in the absence of school meals provision or where school meals are too expensive, go out into the town to get something suitable to eat in cafes and restaurants. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should understand that this may be all right in Runcorn. But, in an area where children are attending schools 20 miles from their homes, in a town that they visit only for the purpose of attending school, parents do not want their children wandering around that strange town in the middle of the day looking for cafes, restaurants or, if they can give the impression they are over 18, pubs, to get something to eat. Parents would much prefer an adequate and cheap school meals system for their children.

More should be done to safeguard the school meals system. One of my amendments tries to ensure that a basic school meal continues to exist at some maximum charge. The Bill provides no limit to the cost of a basic school meal. I have tried to word the amendment in such a way as to leave open to the local authority the chance to offer a variety of foods, perhaps some more expensive, while still recognising what the Government seek to achieve. I refer to amendment No. 40.

There must be some way in which the Government can set a maximum for provision of a reasonably priced meal. So far, however, that is not the Government's intention. The Government's intention is that there should be no compulsion to provide anything and no maximum cost for what is provided. That could spell disaster for parents in many areas.

5 pm

The other main aspect of the Bill with which I wish to deal is its creation of a class of children much smaller than those at present receiving school meals—a class I have called the statutory poor and whom the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), in an evocative phrase, called the people who earn their poverty. His description goes far too wide, and I want to concentrate on the "statutory poor" those who qualify for free school meals under the Bill because they are entitled to family income supplement or supplementary benefit. These children do not merely have to prove that they are within that category. The local authority's obligation to them is to make for them

"such provision…as appears…to be requisite."

The authority could therefore say of any child whose parents were not on family income supplement or supplementary

benefit" We need do nothing for you because we know perfectly well that your mother gives you a good breakfast in the morning and that you will get a decent tea when you get home." But when they inquire into the case of another child, they find that he is not getting a breakfast and that the mother comes home very late and probably does not provide a meal when the child gets home from school. In such a case the authority knows that it will have to make some provision.

Any local authority that strictly interpreted the intention of the Bill would find itself investigating the particular circumstances of every individual child. Why else should that phrase be included? Why else does the Bill not simply say that school meals have to be provided for the children of parents on family income supplement or supplementary benefit? Instead the Bill makes a case-by-case provision. The local authority must make

"such provision…as appears…to be requisite".

In that way the Bill adopts the old poor law approach whereby the local authority will decide in individual cases whether children are getting enough food at home.

If the child cannot be shown to need a meal at school the local authority will have no obligation to provide one. If the child can be shown to need a meal, that meal must be free of charge. So the Bill creates two categories of children who must either be given something free or be given nothing. I cannot imagine what the Minister envisages local authorities are supposed to do in operating the clause.

The parents who are supposed to benefit from such provision as the local authorities must make face a much more fundamental problem. They will be in the most steeply-sided poverty trap that the Government have yet managed to invent. The moment they move above family income supplement level, or begin work after having been on supplementary benefit, they will lose the lot. They will lose free school meals and free school transport, and they will find themselves paying a massive rate of tax—perhaps a marginal rate of 250 per cent. They could be paying £5 on school meals and £5 on school transport per child under some of the schemes that have been suggested by some local authorities.

In their manifesto the Conservatives said:

"we shall do all we can to find other ways to simplify the system, restore the incentive to work, reduce the poverty trap".

The Bill will massively increase the poverty trap. Education Ministers have got away with it so far. They have managed to carry on the discussion on the Bill without their colleagues in other Government Departments, who we hope are still trying to implement that manifesto aim, taking any notice of what they are doing. I can assure Conservative Members that the total effect of these provisions and those in the school transport clause will be to erect a massive poverty trap at a cut-off point that affects a great many families.

I ask Conservative Members who have rural constituences to think of a farm worker earning between £66 and £70 per week. With two children such a man would be just above the family income supplement level. With three children he would be just within that limit. The moment he earns overtime pay he will lose free school meals and free school transport and he will be clobbered by an extraordinary poverty trap.

We should remember also the hospital porters and the low paid workers in the hospital service. They are drastically affected the moment they do any overtime. They do not find themselves on a sliding scale by which they lose some benefit. They lose everything and have to pay fully for anything they receive. They pay heavily for the privilege of sending their children to school and of their children receiving a meal when they are at school.

I cannot understand how Ministers who fought an election on a pledge to make it attractive and worthwhile to work can be prepared to tell us from the Dispatch Box and in the Standing Committee that they are standing by this kind of scheme for no other reason than that they have been unable to think of anything better. That is the only answer we have had so far. It is the only way they can devise of discharging some sort of obligation to those whom they know cannot afford school meals or school transport under the proposals they are making.

They are saying to hundreds of thousands of families that it pays not to work. They are telling them to stay on State benefit and under no circumstances to get a job. To those with work their message is to stay below the family income supplement level because once they exceed that level they have too much to lose. They are telling these families that they will be better off as beneficiaries of the State than by aiding themselves by their own efforts.

The curious thing is that the Government have adopted a different approach to the assisted places scheme. They have devised a generous incomes scale for that scheme which would enable people on substantial incomes to obtain at least some benefit. But it is beyond their wit and imagination to devise any such scale which would bring benefits on school meals or school transport to families that are just over the supplementary benefit or family income supplement levels. That must be absurd.

Most of the amendments—certainly the one on which we shall vote—are attempts to deal with that problem. We have given up the attempt to persuade the Government to abandon their plans on school meals. The amendments deal with a much narrower issue, one upon which we would hope for some support from Conservative Members who are also concerned about the poverty trap. They are being invited tonight to build some safeguards into the Bill to ensure, as amendment No. 39 does, that families are not worse off working than staying out of work.

Amendment No. 39 proposes to insert the words—

"or if they are satisfied that the effect of the charges under this section and section 23(3)"—

that is the school transport clause—

"would be to cause that pupil's family to be poorer than they would be if their income were reduced to Family Income Supplement or Supplementary Benefit level.'."

How can Ministers not want to write that minimum into their Bill? How can they want to retain the situation in which people are better off on State benefit thatn they are in work?

The Goverment's proposals have been badly thought out. There is no evidence that Ministers have listened to the pleas and advice from many quarters, including people who are not unsympathetic to some of the things the Government are trying to do on school transport. There are people in the local authorities who are terrified of having to implement the Government's plans. Why on earth cannot the Government apply some thought to the matter? Is it too late, or are they still prepared to listen?

The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) have justly identified a significant problem in the case of school meals and school transport charges. However, the remedy they suggest is quite insufficient and will only add to the expense and to the bureaucratic problems that local authorities would face. In their speeches we have heard a requiem for the Labour Government's failure to continue to introduce tax credits or negative income tax which is the vital clue to this and many other problems that we face. I accept that that would be complicated and expensive, but until we reach that target we shall always have to face the poverty trap.

I have no wish to be rude to the hon. Lady, but in the case of school meals she reminded me somewhat of Mary Poppins. On the one hand Mary Poppins nannied us into the fact that we must have a full nutritional value of each school meal laid down by the State, just in case the child did not get the necessary vitamin on a particular day at a particular time. Having dealt with that, Mary Poppins then explained to us that meals were very expensive because of the conditions she had so carefully and exactly laid down.

We live in a real world, however, where the economy is totally out of kilter. We must urgently adapt the economic folly of the school meals system no matter what our political philosophy. We must prevent the situation where the food content of the meal is 16p or 17p of the 50p total value. That is a matter of urgency, because that is where the waste occurs. We must also remember that many of the pupils qualifying for and receiving free school meals—I know this for a fact—sell their vouchers and go to the chip shop. Forty per cent. of pupils do that in one large school in Kent. They prefer fish and chips and Mars bars.

The advice of Mary Poppins is not suitable for 1980. It is not good economic advice. I believe that school meal charges will not rocket as dramatically as the hon. Member for Bolton, West has suggested because there is an economic takeoff point where, as has been suggested, parents provide instead of pay.

Every time school meals charges are raised we shall find that there is a cut-off point where money is not recouped. That is why, in Kent, we are fully aware of the situation and are limiting rises in charges accordingly. Let us have tax credits as soon as we possibly can—

If there is a diminution in the marginal propensity to consume as a consequence of the rise in school meal prices how much of a loss is the county of Kent prepared to sustain on each school meal by under-charging for nutritious or even non-nutritious meals? Will the consequence not be that, even with higher charges on that scale, under the freedoms given in the Bill the cost of the school meals service per unit to the providing county will be greater and thus defeat the hon. Gentleman's objective?

The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has used many long words. Quite simply, Kent is determined to make the school meals service a fully economic operation with choice of meals and with private enterprise running part of the operation. That system will solve many problems. I cannot support this amendment.

5.15 pm.

I believe that these parts of the Bill are absolutely central to the Government's economic and political philosophy. The clauses on school meals, milk and transport are the meanest, most rotten and most evil pieces of legislation. I believe that thousands of people throughout the country are now in open revolt over these proposals. It is important therefore that the House gives serious consideration to the amendments.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) properly raised the question of the social usefulness of school meals and the problem of the poverty trap. If one defines the usefulness of school meals in our society and asks why these amendments should be carried into legislation, one must take account of the social usefulness of school meals to the children themselves. At mid-day children should have the opportunity to sit down to a communal meal.

In talking about the value of school meals we must consider them important because they provide nutritional support for the poorest children. When we consider the cost of the school meals service we must remember that the Government are not acting in a vacuum but in the context of the wider economic problems that they face.

I challenge the need to cut the school meals service at all, given the fact that Government revenues from North Sea oil will be substantial in the next four years. By 1984 North Sea oil will be bringing in probably more than income tax—something to the tune of £25,000 million a year. Against that background should the Government not be saying that they will spend some of those revenues to support the poorest families and provide a service regarded by many people as essential to the welfare of children?

The school meals service is important for a child's educational and social development. The proposals in the Bill which the amendments seek to rectify have been put forward against the background of falling consumption—according to a national food survey—of meat, cheese and milk. That consumption was falling during the first years of the last Labour Government. Unfortunately that is as far as the figures go.

It is absolutely monstrous that the Government should pretend that, somehow, economic circumstances have so changed that we must abolish the school meals service in many parts of the country or allow it to continue only in such an attenuated form that it benefits the smallest proportion of our children.

The Government argue that the cuts in the school meals service can be achieved by reorganisation and changes in nutritional standards. The Secretary of State is fond of saying that local authorities have been given the power to vary the school meals service in order to provide more choice. That argument is completely at variance with previous advice issued by his own Department and is totally at variance with reality. In 1975 the Department of Education and Science published a report "Catering in Schools". Dealing with infants and younger school pupils, the report said
"We believe that the school catering service should not normally offer any daily choice of menu to these children. The exercise of even the simplest choice can be a difficult matter for young children…The meal for this group should be the set two-course type, and include a variety of suitable combinations of meat and vegetables and main dishes built around other animal protein foods—fish, eggs or cheese."
The report went on to describe the problems of choice affecting children in the 9–14 age group. It stated:
"We recommend that the middle years' age group should be offered a set meal with some choice in each of the two courses provided…We considered whether the older pupils in the age group…should be given the option of an a la carte meal, but we decided against this. These particular pupils are at a critical stage in their physical development, and they have an enhanced need for both energy and nutrients. It is particularly important for them to eat a midday meal which meetts the recommended nutritional standard and an a la carte system would provide no guarantee that they would do so."
Savings cannot be made by introducing such an a la carte system without cutting the nutritional standards for children under 14 and causing substantial harm to their health. A number of local authorities are engaged in experiments with cafeteria and a la carte systems. Examples are Leicester, Cornwall, Red bridge, Hillingdon, Surrey, Devon, Somerset, Lancashire, Berkshire and North Yorkshire.

Savings on school meals will be made by introducing a la carte systems, not because the authorities want to extend choice but because they want to cut costs by lowering nutritional standards and by reducing the number of workers. Earlier the Secretary of State asked for examples of local authorities which are taking action to remove the school meals service completely. If a local authority increases the price of a school meal to 60p that is the result of a political decision. Such an authority is saying to its electors "We do not really want to run a school meals service. We want to ration the number of school meals provided by price". If local authorities seriously want to phase out the school meals system in an area, all that they have to do is to raise the prices, because parents will not be able to afford them.

Will the local authority in whose area the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race) lives do that?

My local authority is Labour-controlled and I hope that it will do nothing of the kind. However, I am sure that many Conservative-controlled authorities will do it because they have said that they will. Many Conservative-controlled authorities will reduce the nutritional standard of school meals. That is wholly deplorable.

For example, the Lincolnshire county council school working party has agreed to a simplified menu pattern which will cut food costs, by 2·3p per meal, at November 1979 prices, and reduce the food value of the meal by approximately 13 per cent. That is a far cry from the attacks by Tory Members on the high marginal costs of the school meal service. That authority has been given the freedom by the Secretary of State. It is not cutting manpower costs but cutting nutrition by 13 per cent. That is the name of the game for the Tory-controlled local authorities.

Liverpool plans to save £1 million by using frozen meals prepared by outside contractors. Essex county council plans to cut the cost of food in primary schools by 2p a meal to produce a £700,000 saving. That authority plans to use convenience foods at such a level that staff can be cut by 40 per cent. A number of other authorities are planning similar cuts.

If we are serious about providing meals for children at school it is no good assuming that local authorities will, under the terms of the Bill, be prepared to provide proper meals of set nutritional values. The whole purpose of the Bill is to remove that obligation from local authorities and to enable them to save money as part of the Government's public expenditure programme.

The current cost of a school meal is 54p of which only 16·5 is spent on food. The implication is that the rest is wasted or frittered away in administration. That is not so. The rest of the cost goes to pay the wages of the workers who are relatively low paid, although they are paid more than the catering wages council rates. If Tory Members are critical of the amount spent on the meals service simply because the workers are paid slightly more than poverty-line wages, they should say so openly.

The school meals service is efficient. That is not only my view, it is the view of the local authority employers. When they were examining the prospect of reducing the number of workers in local Government under the last Labour Government they examined the possibility of introducing a bonus scheme in the school meals service. They discovered that the prospect of doing that wasnon-existent because the school meal workers were so efficient that the majority of them were working at above the bonus performance. The authorities did not want to pay out money on a performance level which was already achieved. To say that waste is incurred on a vast scale is the biggest load of garbage that I have heard in the House since I was elected.

It is clear that a reduction in the school meals provision will affect women at work. The Equal Opportunities Commission has said that such a reduction and attacks on other items such as nurseries will affect working women. The Government have an appalling record for making provision for women. The Government have said that they intend to remove the statutory requirement to supply school meals and milk. They have said that they intend to remove other supportive measures for women in work, such as the return-to-work provisions in the Employment Protection Act. They are also reducing the number of nurseries.

It is nonsense to say that the Government are providing incentives, as they promised in their election manifesto. Children are being asked to perform better at school while going hungry at lunch time and doing without the protein and calcium now provided to the under-seven-year-olds in school milk. The amendments are necessary. If they are not carried a generation of children will grow up many of whom will be under fed and some of whom will have been deprived of the nutrient of school milk. That will store up many problems for the future.

5.30 pm

It is not the purpose of the debate to explore the economic position of the country. Nevertheless, the clause is included in the Bill because of the economic position. For the better part of the past decade public expenditure cuts have been the order of the day. Successive Governments have urged local authorities to cut back on their expenditure.

Unfortunately, because of the statutory overload that has been placed by Government legislation on local authorities, the areas that could be considered to make substantial savings have been narrowed. That has resulted in many of the services, in an overall sense, becoming depressed. Consequently, we have many three-wheeled wagons rolling along the road. We have done many things rather badly because we have been slicing off the top.

What the Bill attempts to do, in response to the tremendous pressure from local authorities for many years, is to give them greater discretion. It will allow them to consider larger areas of the expenditure that they incur and to use discretion. We hear much in the Chamber—and lip service is paid to it by hon. Members on both sides on occasions—about that essential ingredient of our democratic system, local authority freedom.

As I said on Second Reading, freedom carries with it its own responsibilities. Local authorities must not be afraid of exercising those responsibilities. By proposing to reduce by about 50 per cent. the amount contained in the rate support grant settlement for the school meals service we are giving to local authorities a greater area of discretion.

If freedom carries responsibility, does not responsibility carry freedom? The responsibilities that local authorities bear already and the reduced resources that are to be made available to them render that freedom ineffectual.

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's argument. Local authorities have proper means to consider areas that are of great importance to many people. We have heard many points of view this afternoon about the validity of the argument about the poverty trap. As I said in Committee, hon. Members on both sides share many worries about that problem. However, the validity of that argument does not make invalid the reason for putting the clause in the Bill. Unless we are further to depress overall levels, we must find areas where greater discretion can be applied.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) touched on the present inequities that exist within our social security system. That has to be considered in the context of where we are today. The Act was framed in 1944, and when considered against the background of 1980 it is clear that social conditions have changed. It is perfectly fair to say that there are still many in this country who are, by any definition, deprived. But it is equally true to say that the position is not as bad, and that the demands for a public and expensive umbrella in the school meals service are not as great in 1980 as they were in 1944.

While I accept the points made by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) about the poverty trap, so eloquently expressed by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) in the debate last week, the validity of the clause being in the Bill still exists.

From the point of view advanced by the Conservative Party, is it not the case that it is almost irrespective of whether people are poor? One of the questions that he should be asking is whether they would be better off working. The effect of the Bill is to make sure that that is not the case.

That may or may not be the case. It is not a point to ne argued in an education debate. I stand by my statement that it is the function of the education service to educate. We have to consider the issue in the context of 1980 and ask "Are we getting value for money that we are putting into education?" We must consider all areas of education expenditure.

Five per cent. of the total budget for education is spent on the school meals service. It is an expensive service, especially at the top end where it might be top heavy. A cutback to 2· per cent. of that in no way can be construed as abandoning the service. It is merely fixing it at a more realistic level.

I wish to make two more points. One relates to an issue that concerned all Members in Committee, namely, the stigma upon those in receipt of free school meals. It must be the concern of everyone in the House, and of every responsible LEA councillor, to ensure that whatever scheme is put into force in individual local authorities to provide children with free meals—those whose families are in receipt of family income supplement or supplementary benefit, or fall within the provisions of a later clause in the Bill referring to local authority discretion—is operated in such a manner that the individual child is in no way singled out.

To continue, regrettably, with the position that has existed in the past is totaly indefensible, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support me in saying that.

Secondly, I should like the House to consider a small point in the drafting of the Bill. I refer to Clause 22(2), which appears to contradict itself. It begins in a mandatory form by stating:
"A local education authority shall exercise their power under subsection (l)(a) above.".
it finishes by stating:
"so as to ensure that such provision is made for him in the middle of the day as appears to the authority to be requisite".
There appears to be a conflict in the drafting on that point. I should be glad if the Minister would turn his mind to that matter when he replies.

Hon. Members who served on the Committee were briefed by practically every possible organisation. I wish to make one or two fundamental points, as one who has lived all his teaching life with the school meals service. Clause 22(3)(a) states that a local education authority

"may make such charges as they think fit for anything provided by them".
That is the position that the Bill will bring about at a time of developing mass unemployment, strikes, industrial struggles and so on. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) was a teacher, and I pay tribute to the way in which he has fought valiantly, both in Committee and in his speech in the House today, against the Bill. He pointed out the contribution to the health and education of our children that has been made by the school meals service. I wish to speak from that viewpoint.

I remember the dinner woman and the ancillary staff in the kitchens of schools. Teachers and, in my case, a head teacher visited the kitchens every morning and saw how clean they were and how well fed the children were. It meant that teachers were able to teach children that much better.

There is one sentence in the brief from the National Union of Teachers of which everyone should take account:
"Large numbers of children now go to school without breakfast, so that they have depended on their school dinner and milk to keep them going through the day. This lack of adequate nourishment would threaten all those children in local authorities which could, as a result of the proposed legislation, choose to discontinue a nutrionally adequate meals service for the majority of children."
The NUT makes the educational point:
"Teachers recognise the pre-lunch-time slackening of effort and attention which is due to poor concentration resulting from hunger. How much worse a problem this would become if there was no midday meal provided and children tried to get by on a bag of crisps and a fizzy drink. The teachers' efforts to assist their pupils' learning would be wasted in the afternoons."
That is the essence of what would occur in education in view of what the Government, in my view unwittingly, are about to perpetrate on our children. Five million children—there used to be more—take school meals, and about 1 million of those have free school meals.

The heading of the Advisory Centre for Education's brief is:
"How LEAs will he free to demolish school meals service."
This is an all-out attack on the school meals service, just as the Bill is a demolition attack on nursery education.

The ACE states:
"If the Government's proposals to alter the school meals service go through, education authorities will be able to provide meals of any nutritional standard they like, charge any price, and offer free school meals only when they feel it is 'necessary'."
Having mentioned the educational point, I want now to refer to those children—in some areas it is as many as five or six out of every 10—who go to school without breakfast. In the 1930s there were centres in every area to which children could go for breakfast. A mug of cocoa and a slice of bread and dripping were provided for many children. A Birmingham school has recently started giving breakfast and it is trying to continue to do so because the headmaster saw the need for this provision.

I turn now to a recent experiment in providing free school meals for children. Many more children will soon be in need of free school meals, but, under the provisions of the Bill, fewer children will get them. Therefore, rickets will begin to creep back. That is the reality.

Recently, the Lancet produced an analysis of the heights of children receiving free school meals compared with those receiving subsidised school meals. The
"analysis of the heights of 10,000 primary children from 28 areas of England and Scotland showed that children receiving free school meals were significantly shorter than those children in the other two groups after making allowances for differences in father's social class".
That analysis is saying that these children, before they got the free school meals were already deprived and smaller and were suffering more than other children before applications for free school meals were made.

I know many proud, honourable working people whom I had to ask to apply for free school meals for their children, but who were too proud to do so. I asked them to apply for free clothing for their children, but they were too proud to do that. Even when it was proved that they had a right to these benefits, many of them still held out and would not apply for them. They would hear on the television and so on about slackers and dodgers, and these honourable people would not avail themselves of their rights. Therefore, as I said in Committee, there is a submerged one-tenth of people who are too proud to apply for and accept these benefits even when they are offered.

Will my hon. Friend also bear in mind that there is geographical discrimination? A recent parliamentary reply pointed out that in the county of Durham 18 per cent. of children having school meals were free mealers compared with 7 per cent. in the county of Surrey.

That is true. My right hon. Friend was a distinguished head teacher and had to work within the school meals service.

What the Government are about to do will aim a terrible educational blow at our children. Many children are in need. This legislation will make them even more in need. I am staggered that the Government can talk incessantly about educational standards when the only educational standards that they want to raise are private educational standards. The Bill will limit the educational standards of the vast majority of children, especially the poorest of our children.

5.45 pm

On 26 October last year the Secretary of State for Education and Science held a press conference to introduce this miserable Bill. He is reported to have admitted that of the 1,100,000 pupils receiving free meals, 500,000 will no longer be eligible as a result of this legislation.

I take it that these figures refer only to England and Wales. But, as we now have the Secretary of State for Scotland here on one of his rare appearances, perhaps he will clarify that point. At any rate, in reply to a question, he told me that in Scotland out of 430,000 pupils receiving school meals, 143,000 were receiving free meals. I should guess that if the proportion is roughly the same as in England and Wales, about 70,000 children in Scotland will no longer qualify for free school meals as a result of this legislation.

The parents of those children do not receive supplementary benefit or family income supplement. Their children qualify for free school meals because the scale rates of income for free meals, as laid down by the Secretary of State, are more generous than the scale rate of income for supplementary benefit or family income supplement. Therefore, the parents of those children will, in the first instance, face an increase of 35p as a result of the increased approved a fortnight ago. But already I hear that certain local authorities in Scotland and elsewhere are to put prices up far beyond the 35p for the coming financial year. The whole aim of the Bill is to give them discretion to charge what they like. I have heard of some authorities which charge 40p and others 50p and others as much as 60p. The whole thing will escalate in the months and years to come.

Those who will be penalised most will be the working poor on low incomes. They will be deprived of the incentive to work by a Government who claim that they were elected on a manifesto that would increase incentives to work. What incentive is there for low income people to work if by so doing, taking into account the social wage, they will have less than they would have if they were not working? This clause will make the so-called poverty trap deeper and wider and more people will fall into it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) referred to the article in the Lancet. I should like to emphasise one point in that same article:
"These results suggest that a large proportion of the children who received free school meals were of lower nutritional status."
It sums up by stating that surveillance indicates
"that free school meals are going to the right group of children and that withdrawal might well prejudice their future development."
That is backed by a circular, which we received, from the Advisory Centre for Education referring to another survey by Baker and others reported in the Lancet on 29 September 1979 supporting the previous survey. The circular from the Advisory Centre for Education goes on to say:
"It is perhaps worth pointing out that both of the above studies were set up and funded by the DHSS Sub-Committee on Nutritional Surveillance…Mrs. Thatcher herself announced in the House of Commons that these studies would be undertaken: the government thus has within its possession information strongly suggesting that the proposed changes in eligibility to free school meals are not a good idea."
Yet, the Government continue to propose such regressive ideas. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough pointed out, we should be aware of the possibility of the return of rickets as a result of the lack of nutrition to children, through the deprivation of their rights to school meals and milk.

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman as we are short of time. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman was present for the early part of the debate.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) is not here. I have a report of a survey of schoolchildren in the London borough of Brent which shows that a substantial number of children there go to school having had no breakfast. That number consisted of 4 per cent. in the infant classes, 9 per cent. in the junior classes and 21 per cent. in the senior classes. Therefore, the Minister is clobbering not only all our constituents but his own as well. It is no wonder that there has been such universal protest from parents, teachers, teachers unions, teachers associations, family service unions, the Child Poverty Action Group and even from the National Farmers Union about the proposals. The Scottish National Farmers Union sent a circular to hon. Members who had the privilege or otherwise of serving on the Committee. On the subject of clause 24, "School meals in Scotland", the circular stated:
"Mr. Dennis Canavan has already put forward amendment 85 to substitute 'shall' for 'may' in line 31 on page 22 of the Bill. We would recommend this amendment for your attention."
Contrary to rumours, I am not sponsored by the Scottish National Farmers Union.

I wonder if the hon. Gentleman would agree with my suggestion that the responsibility for sending children to school without breakfast should not end up solely on the Government Front Bench, but it should rest in some part with parents.

In some cases, there may be an element of parental blame. However, part of the historical reason why the school meals service was instituted was that the school, although it should never be seen as a replacement for the home, should be a complement to the home as far as education and other aspects of looking after children are concerned.

I understand that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is opposed to the proposals. It expressed its opposition as long ago as October when the Scottish Office sent out a secret confidential memorandum to it which stated:
"Under the present regulations education authorities are required to provide meals free of charge for children from low income families. 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 what provision should be made in future for children from low income families."
In other words, not only will the number of eligible children be reduced but also the standard of the meals will be reduced. That is completely contrary to a Scottish Education Department recommendation that was published as recently as 1975. Recommendation 16 of the document "Catering in Scottish Schools" stated:
"The Scottish Education Department should, from time to time, give general guidance to education authorities on the minimum nutritional requirements for nursery and primary school children and should also give such other guidance on nutrition as may be considered necessary".
Yet, so soon after that publication, the Government are giving local authorities carte blanche about the standards of nutrition of the school meals. Their only justification, if there is one, is that it will save public money. The sum of £220 million is mentioned in the Bill—it is £20 million as far as Scotland is concerned. Yet, the figures in the financial and explanatory memorandum of the Bill—although they are being reconsidered—state that the sum of £55 million is being set aside for the assisted places scheme for fee-paying schools—an extra £5 million for fee-paying schools in Scotland.

At the same time, it looks as though the Government will reduce the school meals service by half. The Secretary of State for Scotland has said that the school meals budget is about £39·3 million per annum. Perhaps employment will be reduced by half as well. That will involve about 8,500 or 9,000 jobs in Scotland at a time when unemployment there is already over 200,000. This clause will cause a reduction in children's standards of health and education. It will increase the poverty trap and unemployment. If the clause is not withdrawn by the Government, I hope that they will accept some of our amendments. This is one of the most miserable clauses in one of the most miserable pieces of legislation in the history of education in this country.

I am sure that the Scottish National Farmers Union will be grateful for the clarification given by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan).

In as short a time as possible I shall try to deal with some of the many points that have been raised during this all-too short debate. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) referred, as usual—indeed we have been over this ground so much over the last 120 hours or so, but I am happy to argue the case again—to the dismantling of the school meals service. I reassure the House that there is no such intention. What depresses me is the fact that so few Opposition Members have faith or confidence in their local representatives. They do not exhibit much confidence in locally elected representatives from their party, local officials or local school governors.

The hon. Member for Bolton, West also took me to task for the apparent suggestion in Committee that I indicated at some stage that I was less than caring about nutrition and nutritional standards. I should like to verify, for the sake of the debate, that at 6 pm on 30 January 1980 I said:
"There is a risk that a small number of children may be less well nourished as a result, or by general withdrawal of milk, but that is no argument for continuing the obligation on local education authorities to supply free milk to large numbers of children who do not need it."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D; 30 January 1980; c. 1824.]
I shall not bore the House by continuing with that quotation. Suffice it to say that, subsequently, Opposition Members have indicated that I said that there would be malnutrition. That is certainly not what I said. I said that some children might be less well nourished. I hope that that clarifies the point.

The effect of amendment No. 34 will be to empower the Secretary of State to prescribe by order, exercise able by a statutory instrument under clause 34(1), an income level below which parents would be entitled to have such free provision made for their children at school at mid-day as appeared to the authority to be requisite. The intention behind subsections (2) and (3) is that, although any local education authority will have wide discretionary powers under the rest of clause 22 as regards what to provide and charge, there should be a statutory safeguard for children from the poorest families, namely, those receiving supplementary benefit or family income supplement. However, if an authority considered it appropriate to remit charges for other classes of children it would be bound to do to sunder subsection (2)(b). In that event, it might well make use of an income scale similar to the present statutory scale but with different income levels.

Although I am aware of the arguments put forward in favour of uniform entitlement to free provision in order to preclude inter-local education authority variation, I do not find convincing the arguments that have been put forward this afternoon.

6 pm

I should prefer to finish my speech as time is tight. The circumstances of local education authorities vary, as do the circumstances of the populations and communities that they serve. However, local authorities must be given the maximum scope for making reductions in expenditure. Therefore, the only national prescription of entitlement to free provision should be the national poverty levels. Beyond that, it must be for the local education authorities to determine their expenditure precisely. If they consider that inter-local education authority variation is undesirable, they have the means—through local authority associations—of reaching agreement on a scale that could be used or adapted by all local education authorities.

The Minister has made a telling point. He said that the purpose of the clause was to give maximum scope to local authorities to reduce their expenditure. The Government will maintain that pressure. Therefore, local authorities will have no opportunity of using such discretion in any substantial way, because the Government will continue to twist their arms. They therefore will be unable to get the resources.

We shall leave 50 per cent. of the school meals subsidy in the budget for 1980–81. The hon. Lady knows that. It depends upon the view that one takes of local authorities. It depends upon the chief education officer, the chairman of the education committee and, above all, the attitude displayed towards head teachers. Head teachers, form teachers and pastoral heads must know where discretionary powers should be exercised.

This is relevant to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) and to amendment No. 37. There is no inconsistency between the phrase "shall exercise" in page 20, line 27 of the Bill, and the phrase found in lines 31 and 32,
"as appears to the authority to be requisite."
The first requires the local education authority to exercise its power under subsection (1)(a) in respect of those pupils. The second requires them to consider what is requisite in each case, and to provide accordingly. The two are linked by the words "so as to ensure". That phrase relates the exercise of the power to the performance of the duty to the pupil. If hon. Members have a copy of the Bill they will see that clause 22(2) makes that perfectly clear.

From the hon. Gentleman's words, it appears that he wants to make the poverty trap official. He has accepted that only nationally recognised poverty levels might require local authorities to make particular provision. If that is the case, why can he not accept amendment No. 39? At least that amendment ensures that someone who is poorer than a person on family income supplement and supplementary benefit will not suffer unduly as a result of the clause.

I shall come to that amendment shortly. However, I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's point. We discussed the amendment in some detail in Committee. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) referred to the poverty trap. He propounded amendments Nos. 38, 39 and 40 which stand in his name, and that of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells). The theme of his speech surprised me. He did not exercise much confidence in local authority representatives. He seemed to think that most metropolitan authorities and county councils were dominated solely by representatives from the last century, who take no interest in the life of the community. That is depressing. I am concerned, because I judge from his remarks that many schools in his constituency will dismantle the meals service immediately. He therefore appears to consider that schools are incapable of acknowledging the problems of the community.

The hon. Gentleman painted a picture of the problems facing children in rural areas. He referred to the long distances that they have to travel and to the fact that the Bill will have the effect of turning them on to the streets at lunch time. That does not display much confidence in the schools' understanding of the local community. If he thinks that so many schools in his constituency are incapable of understanding the needs of parents and of children, he should talk about those schools so that we can understand his precise problems.

The schools are perfectly capable of understanding such problems. However, the Government are telling them to do this or that. The Government have said that, if the authorities do not make such changes, they will have to make cuts in the mainstream of education. The Secretary of State has admitted that.

The hon. Gentleman surprises me. He does not owe such alarm and despondency to his constituents. I beg him not to send a copy of Hansardto the local papers. If he did so, he would create gloom and despondency. One can only conclude that the hon. Gentleman has not looked closely at the legislation. That is the last thing that the Bill does. He does not owe that behaviour to his constituents.

I shall speak to amendment No. 39. In doing so, I hope that I shall answer some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). There must be hon. Members from all parties who are sympathetic with the intentions of the amendment. The poverty and incentive traps provide serious problems for the low-paid. Several hon. Members made that point when referring to the recent speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). I am surprised and disappointed that the hon. Member for Birkenhead is not here, but perhaps there are good reasons for his absence.

Some of those who receive supplementary benefit or family income supplement will be worse off if they lose their entitlement as a result of increased income. Others, who do not receive supplementary benefit and family income supplement may be better off if they forgo some income and thereby become entitled to the benefits.

Nevertheless, the amendment could involve a local education authority in assessing family income according to two sets of rules, namely, those for supplementary benefit and those for family income supplement. The local authority is not familiar with either. The Department of Health and Social Security deals with both of those categories. It is familiar with the current free school meal regulations.

Under subsection 3(b) a local education authority is required to consider whether it would be appropriate to remit the charge for a class or description of pupil. That is in the Bill. It therefore has power to mitigate the poverty trap problem. Several authorities recognise the importance of doing so. I commend their policies to those that do not have full regard to local circumstances, and the needs and problems of families in their areas. However, to introduce a statutory safeguard would involve statutory regulations, whereas we have to decide that regulations relating to the provision of school meals and milk should be abandoned. That must go some way towards pacifying those Opposition Members who are justifiably concerned.

Many points have been made during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) spoke about the disproportionate cost of administering the school meals service. He also spoke of the low proportion that is spent on food. We know from experience that under existing legislation many local authorities have adapted their school meals service. They have adapted the type of storage used. Some authorities have central freezing units and have effective means of distribution. Some authorities may also use local private enterprise. I agree with the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race), who paid tribute to those who work in the school meals service. I freely and fully acknowledge the enormous contribution that that service makes to the life of schools. [Interruption.] Local education authorities, officers and chairmen of county authorities are responsible people. They know what is needed within the school community and they acknowledge their duties. Hon. Members should not be so disparaging about local government. They have no confidence. I am delighted that I attract such a lot of sedentary fire. However, I do not wish to inflame the situation further. I am always mindful of the words of the righthon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes). He said that a Minister must be a peacemaker. I hope that I shall always fulfil those words.

Over the past five or six months I have communicated with local authority representatives from Devon, Somerset, Sheffield, Liverpool, Merseyside, the North-East and Northumberland. I have been in touch with many local education authorities and I have discussed their plans with them. In every case I found a mood of confidence and enthusiasm for the clause. [Interruption.] I am sorry if the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) feels that derisive laughter is the order of the day. If he does not know what is going on in his local authority or in his local schools, he should get out and about and quickly find out.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned that he went to Sheffield. I was a member of the Sheffield education committee for many years. I shall be delighted if the hon Gentleman can prove that the committee was enthusiastic about the Bill. It has not conveyed that impression to me. On numerous occasions it has expressed the very opposite impression.

The local authorities with which I had discussions expressed approval for the theme behind this clause. They welcome it. The Association of County Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities have expressed approval for the Bill. During the past 10 or 15 years there has been a change in catering on school premises. That aspect of nutrition does not hold good in 1979–80. Opposition Members know that that is the case. The diet and eating habits of children have changed and that is what children want.

It is right to let local education authorities have the freedom to adapt to local community needs. We are confident that local education authorities, chief education officers, chairmen of education committees and parent-teacher associations are responsible bodies and that they have the community interest at heart. The clause will not undermine or demolish the principle of the meals service. It is right that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has concentrated far more upon the preservation of educational services than on ancillary services. With that in mind, I urge the House to reject the amendments.

We were anxious to hear the Minister's reply in the hope that he had learned something from the Committee proceedings. However, we heard the same speech in Committee, and our doubtful pleasure in listening to it again tonight demonstrates that the Minister does not have it well rehearsed. We are no more convinced tonight than we were in Committee.

I have seldom heard such facile arguments as those put forward by Ministers and Government Back Benchers. We have put down amendments about nutritional standards of school meals, and all hon. Members know, no one better that the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Scotland, that this clause and the accompanying Scottish clause, clause 24, are concerned purely with saving money. They have nothing to do with nutritional standards and the need to make sure that our children are adequately fed.

As the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) says, the clauses are about saving money. The Minister replied to the hon. Gentleman by saying that if local authorities do not make the cuts imposed by the Government in respect of school meals, milk and transport, other educational services will not necessarily have to be cut. That denial is a clear indication that he has no idea of the content of circulars from the Scottish Office.

I have a report of the meeting between the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and officials from the Scottish Education Department. I shall not name the officials as they were speaking for the Minister, and he will want to accept full responsibility for what they said. They said:
"the percentage savings in meals, milk and transport would have to be proportionately greater if the main education service was not to undergo severe cuts".
It is the cruellest deception for Ministers to seek to present the proposals as a better way of feeding our children at school. [Interruption.]

The hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner), who had responsibility for prices in the previous Conservative Government, between 1970 and 1974, was once described by me as the most expensive hen in Great Britain. She will be well advised to sit quietly in her seat tonight.

This proposal is the cruellest deception on children and parents since education Acts were introduced.

Last night we saw the beginning of the end of nursery education. Tonight it is the beginning of the end of the school meals service. It is a service entrenched in legislation since 1945. Since then local authorities have been under a duty to provide mid-day meals. Children have been entitled to those meals for 35 years. We are suddenly told, in a blinding flash by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues, that these meals are not as good for children as we have been led to believe over the past 35 years. The Government give that service no credit for our children's improved health standards.

The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) says that the alternative to reducing expenditure on school meals is a negative income tax system. I can imagine his constituents saying "We do not have negative income tax, Mr. Brinton. What do we do in the meantime?" He will reply "I just go to the House of Commons and tell fairy tales about Mary Poppins". I am sure that his constituents will be impressed.

6.15 pm

We have thrown life-line after life-line to the Government, which they have refused to grasp even, I believe, against the will of their Back Benchers. The debate has been significant for its lack of support from the Government Back Benches. However, the number of Government Back Benchers now present is about 10 times what it has been during the debate. I suspect that no Government Back Bencher has the stomach to bulldoze such a proposal through. However, they will do so, and that greatly annoys us.

I wish to mention mainly the Scottish provision. I referred earlier to a meeting between the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and officials from the Scottish Education Department. Expenditure on school meals in Scotland is to be cut by 44 per cent. in the coming financial year. Let us assume that there is no drop in the uptake of school meals. Those paying for meals, and not having them free of charge, will have to pay an extra 24½p a day to make good the 44 per cent. that is being filched from Scottish local authorities by the Minister with responsibility for education at the Scottish Office.

If the normal pattern prevails, and the uptake drops by 25 per cent., the increase for those still taking school meals will be 40p a day. I asked the Minister to quantify the likely increase in October of last year, and he then gave me a figure of 30p a day. That was assuming no drop in the uptake. He said that he could not give a figure, assuming a drop in the uptake. My calculation comes from a good source. We already see signs of substantial increases. Grampian regional council has decided to increase school meal prices, when it is free to do so, to 42p.

As my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) said, we are talking of an increase of from nothing to 42p for children whose families receive neither family income supplement nor supplementary benefit, but are just above that level. The Minister should not authorise his officials to say to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities that it will be left to authorities to define what a low income family is. What we shall have in Scotland will be 10 different definitions of "low income families".

We have heard a lot of nonsense today about Labour Members not trusting local councillors. That is the biggest smokescreen that has ever been cast across any proposition by any Government. Of course we trust local councillors. But if we trusted them we would give them the money. The Government claim to trust them but at the same time they tell them that they will not give them money. When the local authorities exercise their discretion and decide to maintain the school meals service in its present form, the Minister from the Scottish Office, aided and abetted by the Secretary of State, holds press conferences to castigate local authorities because they have taken this decision.

The truth is that local councillors cannot win. On the one hand, the Government say that they have complete freedom and total discretion. On the other hand, they refuse to give them the money. When the local authorities decide to exercise their complete freedom, they are confronted by the Secretary of State for the Environment, who wants to vet all their speeches. Then the Secretary of State for Scotland calls them "rogue elephants".

We are seeing the beginning of the end of the school meals service. There will be no savings by the Government. Instead, they will incur the wrath of parents and children, and they will have to meet the expenditure incurred as a result of the redundancies. If the school meals service is dismantled, obviously there will be redundancies. The contracts of employment of those who work in the school meals service have not been considered. There will have to be discussions with the trade union movement. No Government should get the idea that they can just alter a contract of employment without discussing that alteration with the trade union involved. There will need to be discussions about the necessary changes in the contract of employment of all those employed in the school meals service.

No estimates have been made of the offsetting administrative costs. The kind of system that the Minister wants to see introduced, whereby local authorities have all this discretion will not mean what the Government claim it will mean. If the local authority wants to exercise its full discretion it will be able to do so only if the Government allow it to employ more administrative staff in order to operate the rather complex and compli- cated scheme. Local councillors are on a hiding to nothing. They have been placed in an impossible position

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities summed it up in a letter to the Minister on 15 October. The letter said:

"We view with extreme disquiet the Government's intention to achieve through this legislation a substancial saving in public expenditure amounting to a 40 per cent. reduction".

The local authorities say they are in favour of discretion but they are not in favour of being placed in the position of possibly having to abandon the service. If the Minister wants evidence of local authorities worrying about having to abandon the service, that evidence is contained in this letter. The letter was written after the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities had been advised, first on 2 October and then by letter on 9 October, that the Scottish Office was thinking about introducing these clauses into this Bill.

There was a meeting on 9 October between officials from the Minister's Department and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to discuss one of the most radical changes that has been wrought on the local authorities since 1945. The convention was told that it had to submit its views within six days. That means that 35 years' history was turned upside down in six days by a Government which could not care less about children, old-age pensioners or anyone else.

Then we had the Bill published, presented to Parliament and read a Second time on 5 November. It is very difficult to avoid the suspicion that the Bill was drafted before the Minister went to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. From my experience I would say that it would have been nearly impossible to put together a Bill on 15 October and have it presented to Parliament and read a Second time by 5 November if the convention's views were to be taken seriously. But of course, there was never any intention of taking the convention's submissions seriously. The whole purpose of this exercise is to cut expenditure and save money in order to make more tax concessions to those who do not need them.

We are getting a little sick of being lectured about the nutritional needs of children by people who never see the inside of a State school except during a meeting at election time. Some of them would not know a school meal if they saw one. This is a disgraceful proposition and I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote it down.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Division No. 179]


[6.27 pm

Abse, LeoDunnett, JackLeadbitter, Ted
Adams, AllenDunwoody, Mrs GwynethLeighton, Ronald
Allaun, FrankEadie, AlexLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Alton, DavidEastham, KenLewis, Arthur (Newham North West)
Anderson, DonaldEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterEllis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)Litherland, Robert
Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestEllis, Tom (Wrexham)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Ashley, Rt Hon JackEnglish, MichaelLyon, Alexander (York)
Ashton, JoeEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Ewing, HarryMabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Fitch, AlanMcCartney, Hugh
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Fitt. GerardMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Beith, A. J.Flannery, MartinMcElhone, Frank
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodFletcher, Ted (Darlington)McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMcKelvey, William
Bidwell, SydneyForrester, JohnMacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertFoster, DerekMaclennan, Robert
Boothroyd, Miss BettyFoulkes, GeorgeMcMahon, Andrew
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)
Bradley, TomFreeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMagee, Bryan
Bray, Dr JeremyFreud, ClementMarks, Kenneth
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Garrett, John (Norwich S)Marshall, David (Gl'asgow, Shettles'n)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)George, BruceMarshall, Jim (Leicester South)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Sprlngb'rn)
Buchan, NormanGinsburg, DavidMason, Rt Hon Roy
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)Golding, JohnMaxton, John
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Gourlay, HarryMaynard, Miss Joan
Campbell, IanGraham, TedMeacher, Michael
Campbell-Savours, DaleGrant, George (Morpeth)Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Canavan, DennisGrant, John (Islington C)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cant, R. B.Grimond, Rt Hon J. Miller, Dr M. S. (East Klbride)
Carmichael, NeilHamilton, James (Bothwell)Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Carter-Jones, LewisHamilton, W. W. (Central iie)Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Cartwright, JohnHarrison, Rt Hon WalterMorris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithMorris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyMorris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Cohen, StanleyKaynes, FrankMorton, George
Coleman, DonaldHealey, Rt Hon DenisMoyle, Rt Hon Roland
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Heffer, Eric S.Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Conlan, BernardHogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Newens, Stanley
Cook, Robin F.Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhail)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Cowans, HarryHome Robertson, JohnO'Halloran, Michael
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)Homewood, WilliamO'Neill, Martin
Crowther, J. S.Hooley, FrankOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cryer, BobHoram, JohnOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Cunlilfe, LawrenceHowell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Palmer, Arthur
Cunningham, George (Islington S)Hughes, Mark (Durham)Park, George
Dalyell, TamHughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Parker, John
Davidson, ArthurHughes, Roy (Newport)Parry, Robert
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Janner, Hon GrevillePavitt, Laurie
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Jay, Rt Hon DouglasPendry, Tom
Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)John, BrynmorPenhaligon, David
Deakins, EricJohnson, James (Hull West)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Johnston, Russell (Iverness)Prescott, John
Dempsey, JamesJones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Dewar, DonaldJones, Barry (East Flint)Race, Reg
Dixon, DonaldJones, Dan (Burnley)Radice, Giles
Dobson, FrankKaufman, Rt Hon Co'aldRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Dormand, JackKerr, RussellRichardson, Jo
Douglas, DickKilroy-Silk, RobertRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Douglas-Mann, BruceKinnock, NellRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Dubs, AlfredLambie, DavidRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Duffy, A. E. P.Lamborn, HarryRobertson, George
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)Lamond, JamesRobinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)

Amendment proposed: No. 39, in page 20, line 41, at end insert—

'or if they are satisfied that the effect of the charges under this section and section 23(3) would be to cause that pupil's family to be poorer than they would be if their income were reduced to Family Income Supplement or Supplementary Benefit level.'.—[Mrs. Ann Taylor.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 252, Noes 313.

Rodgers, Rt Hon WilliamSteel, Rt Hon DavidWeetch, Ken
Rooker, J. W.Stoddart, DavidWellbeloved, James
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)Stott, RogerWelsh, Michael
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Strang, GavinWhite, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Rowlands, TedStraw, JackWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Sandelson, NevilleSummerskill, Hon Dr ShirleyWhitehead, Phillip
Sever, JohnTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)Whitlock, William
Sheer man, BarryThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)Wigley, Dafydd
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Short, Mrs RenéeThomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)Winnick, David
Sllkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)Tilley, JohnWoodall, Alec
Silverman, JuliusTinn, JamesWrigglesworth, Ian
Smith, Cyril (Rochdaie)Torney, TomWright, Sheila
Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)Urwin, Rt Hon TomYoung, David (Bolton East)
Snape, peterVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Soley, CliveWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Spearing, NigelWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)Mr. John Evans and
Spriggs, LeslieWalker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)Mr. Terry Davis.
Stallard, A. W.


Adley, RobertCorrie, JohnHayhoe, Barney
Aitken, JonathanCostain, A. P.Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Alexander, RichardCranborne, ViscountHeddle, John
Alison, MichaelCritchley, JulianHenderson, Barry
Amery, Rt Hon JulianCrouch, DavidHaseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Ancram, MichaelDean, Paul (North Somerset)Hicks, Robert
Arnold, TomDickens, GeoffreyHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Aspinwall, JackDorrell, StephenHill, James
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Dover, DenshoreHolland, Philip (Carlton)
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardHooson, Tom
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Hordern, Peter
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Durant, TonyHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyDykes, HughHowell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)
Bell, Sir RonaldEden, Rt Hon Sir JohnHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Bendall, VivianEdwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Hunt, David (Wirral)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Eggar, TimothyHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Elliott, Sir WilliamHurd, Hon Douglas
Best, KeithEmery, PeterIrvine, Charles (Cheltenham)
Bevan, David GilroyFairbairn, NicholasJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFairgrieve, RussellJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Biggs-Davison, JohnFaith, Mrs SheilaJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Blackburn, JohnFarr, JohnJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Blaker, PeterFell, AnthonyKaberry, Sir Donald
Body, RichardFenner, Mrs PeggyKimball, Marcus
Bonsor, Sir NicholasFinsberg, GeoffreyKing, Rt Hon Tom
Boscawen, Hon RobertFisher, Sir NigelKitson, Sir Timothy
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Fietcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Knight, Mrs Jill
Bowden, AndrewFookes, Miss JanetKnox, David
Boyson, Dr RhodesForman, NigelLamont, Norman
Braine, Sir BernardFowler, Rt Hon NormanLang, Ian
Bright, GrahamFox, MarcusLangford-Holt, Sir John
Brinton, TimFraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Latham, Michael
Brittan, LeonFraser, Peter (South Angus)Lawrence, Ivan
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherFry, PeterLee, John
Brooke, Hon PeterGalbraith, Hon T. G. D.Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Brotherton, MichaelGardiner George (Reigate)Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Browne, John (Winchester)Garel-Jones, TristanLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnGilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Bryan, Sir PaulGlyn, Dr AlanLoveridge, John
Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickGoodhart, PhilipLuce, Richard
Buck, AntonyGoodlad, AlastairLyell, Nicholas
Budgen, NickGorst, JohnMcCrindie, Robert
Bulmer, EsmondGow, IanMcCusker, H.
Burden, F. A.Gower, Sir RaymondMacfarlane, Neil
Butcher, JohnGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)MacGregor, John
Butler, Hon AdamGray, HamishMacKay, John (Argyll)
Cadbury, JocelynGreenway, HarryMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)McQuarrie, Albert
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Grist, IanMade), David
Chalker, Mrs LyndaGrylls, MichaelMajor, John
Channon, PaulGummer, John SelwynMarland, Paul
Chapman, SydneyHamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Marlow, Tony
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Hampson, Dr KeithMarten, Neil (Banbury)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Hannam, JohnMates, Michael
Cockeram, EricHaselhurst, AlanMather, Carol
Colvin, MichaelHastings, StephenMaude, Rt Hon Angus
Cope,JohnHavers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelMawby, Ray
Cormack, PatrickHawksley, WarrenMawhinney, Dr Brian

Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinPrior, Rt Hon JamesTapsell, Peter
Mayhew, PatrickProctor, K. HarveyTaylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Mellor, DavidPym, Rt Hon FrancisTebbit, Norman
Meyer, Sir AnthonyRaison, TimothyTemple-Morris, Peter
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Rathbone, TimThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Mills, Peter (West Devon)Rees-Davies, W. R.Thompson, Donald
Miscampbell, NormanRenton, TimThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Rhodes James, RobertThornton, Malcolm
Moate, RogerRidley, Hon NicholasTownend, John (Bridlington)
Molyneaux, JamesRidsdale, JulianTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Monro, HectorRifkind, MalcolmTrippier, David
Montgomery, FergusRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Trotter, Neville
Moore, JohnRoss, Wm. (Londonderry)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Rossi, HughVaughan, Dr Gerard
Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Rost, PeterViggers, Peter
Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Royle, Sir AnthonyWaddington, David
Mudd, DavidSainsbury, Hon TimothyWakeham, John
Murphy, ChristopherSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon NormanWaldegrave, Hon William
Myles, DavidScott, NicholasWalker, Rl Hon peter (Worcester)
Neale, GerrardShaw, Giles (Pudsey)Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Needham, RichardShelton, William (Streatham)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Nelson, AnthonyShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)Waller, Gary
Neubert, MichaelShersby, MichaelWalters, Dennis
Newton, TonySilvester, FredWard, John
Nott, Rt Hon JohnSims, RogerWarren, Kenneth
Onslow, CranleySkeet, T. H. H.Watson, John
Osborn, JohnSmith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Page, John (Harrow, West)Speed, KeithWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Page, Rt Hon Sir R. GrahamSpeller, TonyWheeler, John
Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)Spence, JohnWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Parkinson, CecilSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)Whitney, Raymond
Parris, MatthewSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)Wickenden, Keith
Patten, Christopher (Bath)Sproat, IainWiggin, Jerry
Patten, John (Oxford)Squire, RobinWilkinson, John
Patltie, GeoffreyStainton, KeithWinterton, Nicholas
Pawsey, JamesStanbrook, IvorWolfson, Mark
Percival, Sir IanStanley, JohnYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Peyton, Rt Hon JohnSteen, AnthonyYounger, Rt Hon George
Pink, R. BonnerStevens, Martin
Pollock, AlexanderStewart, Ian (Hitchin)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Porter, GeorgeStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Anthony Berry.
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Stokes, John
Price, David (Eastleigh)Stradling Thomas, J.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after half past Six o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [29 January] and the Resolution yesterday, to put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at half-past Six o'clock.