HC Deb 19 March 1968 vol 761 cc233-4
16. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Health what is his policy with regard to the provision of more nurseries for children below school age.

Mr. K. Robinson

That they should be provided, as resources permit, primarily for those who need care on health and welfare grounds.

Mr. Cronin

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is a large number of able-bodied women who would be happy to look after children, and is he further aware that there is also a large number of women who would be prepared to do productive work of an industrial nature? Could his Department take steps to bring these two together?

Mr. Robinson

Ever since 1945 it has been the policy on day nurseries that the proper place for a child under two is at home with its mother, and that any provision for children between two and five should be by way of nursery schools, in classes where the hours are shorter. Local authority day nurseries are not, therefore, provided for children of mothers who want to work but do not have to.

Sir T. Beamish

Is the Minister aware of the splendid work being done on a voluntary basis by pre-school play groups? Would it not be possible for the Government and local authorities to give more encouragement to the work of these voluntary bodies?

Mr. Robinson

This matter has been discussed a great deal during proceedings in this House, and in Committee on the Health Services and Public Health Bill.

Miss Joan Lestor

Would my right hon. Friend not agree, bearing in mind that the reduction in the number of day nursery places has not been accompanied by a rise in the provision of nursery schools, and since he has, by something which we all welcome, curtailed the conditions under which people may go in for child-minding, that it is all the more urgent for him to "up" the number of day nursery places available if there is to be any effect at all on social policy?

Mr. Robinson

My hon. Friend will be glad to know that at the end of 1966 there were 445 local authority day nurseries with something over 21,000 places. The authorities' ten-year plans envisage a further 5,000 places by 1976.