HC Deb 07 April 1937 vol 322 cc193-258

Order for Second Reading read.

3.28 p.m.

The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I am in a certain difficulty. The whole plan of the Government for dealing with this question of physical training was published some weeks ago in a White Paper, and the House will remember that shortly after the issue of that White Paper we had a full discussion upon it in Committee. The whole matter, therefore, has already been debated, and the Bill, the Second Reading of which I am now moving, neither adds anything to the scheme nor makes any variation in it. It is simply to give the statutory authority to those parts of the scheme which were published in the White Paper, but which cannot be carried out by administrative methods. To a certain extent, therefore, it is inevitable that my speech to-day should cover some of the ground which I covered on that previous occasion, and I regret that I can think of no method of enlivening it. During the years I have been in the House, I have seen several experiments on the part of hon. Members. I have seen hon. Members who produced bottles from their pockets or pieces of stuff which they waved to the House, and of course, if the same privilege were extended to me and it were possible at some period during my speech to call upon the Front Bench to give a practical demonstration[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—it would enable the House to see us trying to touch those toes which from some of us for years have been concealed. It would, I think, dispense with any need for a peroration, but I am afraid, you, Mr. Speaker, would not allow it.

Therefore, I propose to commence by giving a brief explanation of the actual Clauses of the Bill and to end by making some rather more general observations on the whole purposes of the scheme. Hon. Members will realise that the Bill applies to England, Wales and Scotland, and although in my remarks I shall be speaking exclusively about England and Wales, it will be realised that everything which I say about that scheme will apply mutatis mutandis to Scotland, and one of my hon. Friends from Scotland will be available during the Debate to answer any specifically Scottish points which may be raised.

Clause r simply gives statutory authority to the National Advisory Council. That body is already in existence and has been at work since 1st March. I explained during the last Debate what the composition of that Council was to be, although I was not then in a position to say who the Members were. I explained then that members of the Council were not to be nominated as representatives by various bodies, but were to be invited as individuals, by the Prime Minister to act on the Council, and, of course, that they would owe their invitations to the fact that they could bring to the scheme some particular knowledge, or some particular help, whether it was knowledge of and prowess in athletics, knowledge of the work of voluntary bodies, knowledge of the work of local associations or knowledge of the work of physical training in the more technical sense.

Immediately after the issue of the White Paper, the Prime Minister sent out invitations to 31 individuals. It says much for the importance which they attached to this scheme and the part which the Advisory Council were to play in it, that answers were received to all those invitations within a few days and that every answer was an acceptance. I am sure the House will be glad to know that several hon. Members found themselves able to accept invitations to serve upon this council. They are hon. Members who on many political questions would find the widest divergence between their views, and it is satisfactory that they should feel that here is a field in which they can co-operate with each other. General recognition has been given to the composition of the Advisory Council, and there is also general recognition of the fact that it is an important, an experienced and a varied body. I am sure I speak on behalf of the Government as a whole and of the House, when I tender our gratitude to them.

The number of members of the council had to be restricted. Everybody understands the difficulty of working councils which grow too large in numbers. There is a sort of inverse ratio between the amount of work done and the number of members involved. It was, therefore, felt important that the number should be strictly limited. That, of course, has meant that many individuals have had to be left off the council whom one would have liked to have had on it, because of some special knowledge which they bring to the problem. Hon. Members will see, however, that in this Clause, which gives statutory authority to the National Council, power has been given to the council to co-opt outsiders on sub-committees in order that they may make use of outside knowledge on particular points.

Although that power of co-option is one for the Council to exercise, there is a particular way in which, I think, it might be used, and in regard to which I want to make an appeal to them. The success of this Measure must depend to a large extent upon its reception by youth. Therefore, the most important appeal which we have to make is an appeal to youth. Most people will admit, without any derogation from those of older age, that an appeal to youth usually comes best from youth. Certainly on any question of physical training of this kind it comes best from those whose figures are still concave rather than from those whose figures have become convex. [Laughter] I hear the cap being audibly fitted by some hon. Gentleman behind me. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible to enlist the services of young men and women who have a name in the world of athletics and who have personality which will add to the appeal and assist in popularising this movement. I understand the National Council has already set up several committees which are at work, dealing with publicity and propaganda, and with the technical side of training, and above all, with the part of the work which is most important and at the same time most urgent, and that is the setting up of the local committees which form the subject of the second Clause of the Bill.

If hon. Members look at Clause 2 they will see that it provides for a scheme of local committees which are to be composed in very much the same way as the National Council, that is to say, members will be invited to serve as individuals and not as nominated representatives of various bodies. Just like the National Council they will reproduce, in the area, a sort of microcosm of all the interests concerned in a scheme of this kind—voluntary workers and local authorities, and all persons who are interested in a general way. I would like to emphasise that the local committees are not being set up just as part of the machinery for distributing Government funds. It is true that they will play an important part in that machinery, but they have functions which would be important, and, indeed, necessary, if there were no Government funds to be distributed and, therefore, no machinery for such a distribution. They will be able to create an interest and make a drive in the localities which it would be very difficult to do from a headquarters in London. They can provide the local knowledge; they will have the local interest and their names will carry more weight in their localities than those of a central body.

Their tasks will be of several different kinds. There will be, first of all, the question of propaganda, of seeing that the possibilities of the scheme and its objects and aims are brought thoroughly home to the localities. Secondly, there is the task of reviewing existing facilities. This question of physical training is a subject of which we are statistically very ignorant, due to the fact that it has been in a large number of hands, part of it done by local authorities, part by education authorities, much of it by voluntary bodies, and there are no collected statistics which enable us to form a picture of what is now provided and still less of what the demands are and what additions therefore are required. Thirdly, it will be their duty to examine all proposals which are put up, either by voluntary bodies or by local authorities in the area, for receipt of Government assistance from the Grants Committee. Of course, if a local authority wants to proceed without an appeal to the Grants Committee, and simply be in receipt of the automatic grants which it may get under the Education Act, then there is no necessity to submit proposals; otherwise, all proposals for work in the neighbourhood must be submitted through these local bodies to the Grants Committee. Only by that method can we ensure that in any locality there is no overlapping and no waste, that the Grants Committee do not receive two proposals to cover the same hit of work, while alongside is a bit of work for which there is no provision at all. But the local committee will have to bring forward those proposals to the Grants Committee. It will not be able to act as a sort of local guard and decide the matter itself, but it will forward them, with its comments on the desirability or on the undesirability of a particular scheme. Finally, it will fall to the local committee, in cases where gaps are revealed which nobody else is prepared to fill, to make what arrangements they can to see that the gap is filled, to see that an ad hoc body, if necessary, is formed which does make the application, and to which the Government grant can be given.

I have been talking, in discussing the duties of the area committees, of the Grants Committee. That is set up under Clause 3. Already on a previous occasion I have explained at length the functions of that committee, and hon. Members will see that the objects for which they can recommend grants from the Board of Education are set out very fully in the Clause, which I do not think needs any explanation. There is only one point upon the Clause to which I need call attention, and that is the question of maintenance. It is not the object of this scheme that in general money should be devoted to maintenance, that is to say to the running of the institution, with the exception of the help that can be given to the training and supply of teachers. I feel that if there really is a sufficient demand in the locality for an organisation to start and for buildings to be erected, it ought to be possible in most cases for the locality, from either public or voluntary sources, to provide for the maintenance and the running of the building when its erection has been assisted by the Government. But although that is true, I believe, of the vast majority of areas in this country, there may be cases—hon. Members opposite will know of some—where it is not and where, whatever the local interest may be, however great the real local demand for facilities of this kind, neither from voluntary sources nor from public sources would sufficient money be forth-coming to maintain them. Therefore power has been retained, only to be used in exceptional circumstances, for giving assistance for the maintaining as well as the erection of any of the objects specified. That power can only be exercised in the case of a voluntary body, because, of course, hon. Members will realise that where a local authority is acting in the capacity of an education authority, it will already automatically attract a 50 per cent. grant for maintenance of this particular work.

I think I need add only one matter about the Grants Committee. Since the matter was last discussed in the House, Sir Henry Pelham, for long Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education, has accepted the position of Chairman. Sir Henry is known to many Members of this House, he has had 40 years' experience of dealing with local authorities, he has a unique knowledge of voluntary bodies, and the affection in which he is held in the board ensures smooth working between his committee and the board. I think that no more suitable person could have been found to take that position.

Clause 4 is a machinery Clause, which deals with the powers of local authorities, and it is to some extent merely consolidation. Certain powers which the local authorities already possess under the Public Health Act and under the Museums and Gymnasiums Act, 1891, it is felt, are more appropriately re-enacted in this Bill, but there are some new powers, and the most important of them is the power given to a local authority—a local authority is described in Clause 9 —to provide throughout the area that sort of community centre which at the present moment a housing authority can provide on its own housing estate, but which a local authority is not able to provide anywhere else. That, I think, is an extension of power to local authorities which may be most useful.

Clause 5 deals with the compulsory purchase of land and, for the purpose of this Bill, extends to all local authorities, other than parish councils, the machinery for the compulsory acquisition of land under the Local Government Act, 1933. Clause 6 remedies a difficulty under the Education Act. Under Section 86 of that Act it was possible for the local education authority to provide certain facilities for social recreation and for physical training, but there was a difference in their powers as to whether those facilities were being provided for boys and girls under 18 or for young men and women over 18; if they were provided for the juveniles, their powers were unlimited, but if they were provided for those over 18, they could only be provided if they were attending educational institutions. We have struck that out under this Clause, and in future the education authorities will have the same power with regard to the provision of this kind of matters for people over 18 as they have long possessed for those under 18.

Clause 7 deals with the setting up of the National College, and I regard this as one of the most important parts of the whole scheme. To a large extent the success of the scheme will depend upon the sort of leaders and instructors who can be provided, and to a large extent the quality of those leaders and instructors will depend upon this new National College. On the last occasion that we debated this matter I gave certain ideas of mine with regard to the college, its size, its curriculum and so on. Those preliminary ideas have now been worked out in full detail, and the whole scheme is ready for submission to the National Advisory Council and for their advice, and I hope very soon to be able to make a practical start with this college. The other Clauses of the Bill are largely of a machinery character, and although, of course, my hon. Friend, when he winds up the Debate, will be glad to answer any questions on it, I do not think there is any matter which calls now for explanation. I should, therefore, like to pass to some more general observations upon this scheme.

Mr. George Griffiths

I see that Clause 10 gives power to district councils in Scotland, but Clause 9 does not appear to give power to urban district councils in England.

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Member will see in Clause 9 the words "county district."

If I may pass to some more general observations, I think I may say that both the objects and the details of this scheme have met with general approval. The scheme, after all, raises no issue of party politics. It is one of those rare, but for that reason all the more welcome, occasions when we can all co-operate with out any sacrifice of principle. I still hear criticisms that this scheme is militaristic or, at least, totalitarian in character. Anyone who holds that view sincerely must be completely ignorant of contemporary developments on the Continent. It is true that during the last few years more publicity has been given to developments in the realm of physical training in Germany and Italy, and those developments may or may not be militaristic in character; but the leaders of this movement on the Continent have not been in the past, and are not now, those particular States. They are States like Sweden and Czechoslovakia, the democratic popular States which set an example to all Europe in the origin of these schemes, and which to-day yield place to none either in the enthusiasm that they evoke in those countries or in the success with which they are carried out.

I think we can draw valuable lessons from the systems adopted in those countries, systems which have no element of compulsion in them, as we are determined to have no element of compulsion here; yet these systems are not applicable as a whole. What is suitable for one country can never be applied wholly to another. To try to translate the Swedish or the Czechoslovakian schemes into terms of England, Wales or Scotland will be to ignore all the developments of the last 20 or 30 years and the work that has already been done by local authorities and voluntary bodies, and all that experience and good will which have been built up in this country which we want not to sacrifice but to retain. It is interesting to look back on the history of the growth of physical culture in countries such as Sweden and Czechoslovakia and in this country and to see the very divergent lines upon which it has developed. I do not think it is true to say that there has been any less enthusiasm for physical exercises in this country than there has been in Scandinavia or Czechoslovakia; but whereas there they have from the start concentrated on the individual, on the training and development of the body of the individual, on rousing the pride of the individual in his own development, we have here concentrated on games, on the prowess and success of the individual or team. The danger of the latter is apparent. It is particularly apparent in a highly urbanised State. It is that the participant tends to degenerate into a spectator until you come to a period when too large a number, after spending an afternoon at Goodison Park or an evening at the Oval, pleasantly feel that they have done their bit to make a fitter Britain. The defect of the former is that it tends to be dull. In a country where among athletes the competitive spirit survives in a thoroughly un-Marxian form, some spice of game and contest is necessary if people are to retain interest. We do not want under this scheme to substitute physical training for games. What we hope to do is to supplement games by physical training, and perhaps to find a happy medium for an all-round development.

Some suspicion, I know, has been expressed with regard to the timing of the Government scheme. Why has it come out now just in the middle of a rearmament programme? The time of the Government's scheme has not been dictated by armaments or politics or even, I think, by the Government. It has been dictated by what has been going on for some years in the schools. As soon as had begun to put physical training in the schools on a different basis, as soon as it became, as the President of the National Union of Teachers said, part of the curriculum which the children enjoy most, it was inevitable that the children who enjoyed it when at school should want it when they left, that the demand would go on increasing, and that finally the Government would have to help in its supply.

It is natural that public attention has so far been concentrated on the scheme largely from the health point of view. It is, of course, a most important and indispensable part of any campaign for a better and fitter Britain. Anyone can see that the effect of physical training has been the maintenance of fitness. The "Keep fit" slogan was one of the best ever invented. What is not so widely known is the remedial effect that physical training can have, that wise scientific training given under proper instruction and with a scientific basis behind it can do much to remedy some of those minor and, indeed, some of the major ills to which a highly civilised and industrialised society is liable. The habits of our civilisation do result in certain physical defects.

Finally, I do not think that we can over-estimate the value to the individual and to his general health of creating for the individual an ideal of personal fitness, making him feel that to be fit is his duty, and that to do his duty in that way is worth giving up something for, because it has results which are psychological just as much as they are physical. They develop his self-control and self-discipline just as much as they develop his muscles and his sinews. This approach to national health by means of physical training is not, of course, exclusive of the approach to national health on the lines of nutrition. It must not be exclusive of it; it has to be parallel to it. Attempts have been made in certain quarters to found arguments against this scheme upon a nutritional basis. Those arguments could only be valid if it could be shown that the great proportion of the community were so suffering from nutritional defects that physical training was not good for them or, indeed, was a positive disadvantage. I submit that any attempt to raise an argument of that kind is to paint a picture which is completely false.

I will give only two illustrations. The other day the President of the National Union of Teachers was addressing the annual conference at Portsmouth, and he "took this topic of physical training in the schools as the basis for what, I thought, was a very wise and moderate speech. He specifically denied that there was in the schools any such general under-nutrition as would render children unable to profit from physical training. He called attention to one unsatisfactory feature. He demanded that this feature should be remedied, and he made use of words which I should like to repeat when he said that existing machinery if used can ensure that every school child comes to physical training with a well-nourished body. That machinery is in existence. If the machinery is properly used there should be no question of malnutrition in our schools, and, as far as I am concerned, I am determined that the machinery shall be used. I appeal to hon. Members in all Parts of the House to help me in impressing on local education authorities, as I intend to do, that this machinery in their areas has to be put into the fullest possible operation. In so far as, perhaps, in the past the poverty of a particular authority has been pleaded as a bar to working this machinery fully, I must remind the House that the recent block grant made available to many authorities largely increased sums, and increased sums on which services of this kind may well have the first call.

Mr. A. Jenkins

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the block grants are already absorbed by many local authorities owing to the falling rateable value and that there is very little surplus left, particularly in the Special Areas?

Mr. Stanley

I am not going to enter into a general conversation on the subject. I cannot agree for one minute that that is a real picture of the benefits which have been conferred by the increased block grant. I am going to press on local authorities the importance of putting these services into their proper position. It will be for the local authorities to raise the possibilities of doing it.

So much for school life; now for after school life. I do not want to go into details, but no doubt many hon. Members have read the First Report of the Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Anyone who reads pages 10 to 11 of that report will gather, from the whole tenor of it, that the picture of a nation in general suffering from malnutrition is a false one. There is a problem of malnutrition, but it is a problem of a minority, and I would say of a small minority. Of course that is no reason for complacency; there should not be a minority, however small it may be. But the existence of a minority is no reason for depriving the great majority of people of facilities which they desire and from which they are able to profit.

I notice that the committee in its report lays great stress on the possibility of extending the consumption of milk both in the schools and after children have left the schools. That report, of course, will receive careful consideration from the Government. In some respects my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has already acted upon it. I hope the House will excuse me if I say a word or two upon this question, because it is one in which I have taken great personal interest since I have been at the Board of Education. I have been disappointed that a scheme which started so well with a large proportion of the children should have seemed to have halted. I have been frying to ascertain the reasons. I want to give the House one warning on this question of extend ing milk consumption. It is a most difficult problem. It is not only an economic problem, it is not just a question of the price of the product and the pocket of the purchaser, but the questions of taste, of belief in it and of condition come into play. I am very much in favour of drinking milk, speaking objectively, but I would remind the House that although a child can lead a man to a milk bar a whole Cabinet cannot make him drink.

Let me give two instances to show what I mean. The other day I was in South Wales and I spoke there to the headmaster of a school in one of the most distressed areas. He told me that he had 200 children on his books, and that during term 80 were receiving free milk. His local authority conceived the idea of trying to extend the milk supply scheme into the school holidays and his school was selected as one of the experimental places. During the holidays, there was not a single day when lie had more than 10 of those 80 children as applicants for the milk, and yet not one of those children had more than half a mile to walk to school to get the milk. There was, therefore, no question of economics or of difficulty of supply there; it was a problem of individuality and psychology and taste which cannot be solved on the basis of economics. Take the case of this House: a very large number of us are so fortunately placed in our economic circumstances that it does not matter very much to us if milk goes up or down a penny a pint. If it went up 2d. we could still afford to drink the optimum pint which the scientists desire. But I wonder how many hon. Members do so.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Let us have a show of hands.

Mr. Stanley

I should have thought that the hon. Member, with his well-known devotion to butter, would be the hon. Member who least of all needs an additional milk supply. As I have said, public attention has largely concentrated itself on the health side of this scheme, but I would remind the House that it is a scheme not only for physical training but also for recreation. It is, therefore, part of another problem which to my mind is just as important and just as great, and that is the problem of the use of leisure. Why has anyone to meddle with that? It may be said, "Take care of the leisure and youth will look after itself." I do not think the problem is as simple as that. The whole trend of industrial conditions to-day is a trend towards shorter working hours. We may argue as to whether this particular programme should be carried out at this particular time, but if we look back on the history of the past few years we must realise that legislation, regulation, trade union action and collective bargaining have all tended to a shortening of the working hours.

Who can doubt that if we avoid those catastrophes to civilisation which are so liberally predicted by prelates out of pulpits and by statesmen out of office—similar prophecies have been made before by similar people and have proved to be wrong—we shall see an era of shorter and shorter working hours and of more and more real leisure, that is to say leisure which is not occupied in eating and resting and sleeping and just making oneself fit for work again, but leisure which can be devoted day by day to whatever use the individual wishes to put it? That leisure is going to be different not only in content but in quality from anything that the general masses of the people have experienced up till now. It is going to be regular; there will be certain hours for it every day; it is not to be spasmodic, a day off here and there. It is not to be like the England of the seventeenth century, the England that in history books is called Merrie England, the times which of all times perhaps were times of spontaneous enjoyment. But the leisure was not regular, daily; it was a holiday, a Holy Day, a feast now and then.

The civilisations of Rome and Greece were civilisations founded on slavery. The whole of the hard labour was done by one section of the community, and for a privileged section leisure was reserved. It was a complete and regular leisure. It is the same kind of leisure, if not the same amount, to which the twentieth century is tending. What use are we to make of leisure of that kind? We know what use the Greeks made of it. Over 2,000 years later we are still acting Greek plays and admiring Greek art, and we still imitate Greek games. What, I wonder, shall we do with our leisure? We all know from our own experience that when we have been working hard for a time and we go for. a holiday, the first day or two we do not want to do anything; it is good enough that we are not working. But as we get rested, as the reaction passes away, we want more and more to occupy ourselves, whether mentally or physically.

I am certain that regular leisure of the kind I mention will demand some more active occupation than just sitting about and resting. Are we to occupy it by going to more football matches and more cinemas? They may be very good things to fill up our spasmodic leisure. It is good for all of us to do these things occasionally, but too much football and too many cinemas are pretty expensive and pretty cloying. The real use of leisure will call for the development of interest, of taste, of knowledge. Heaven forbid that this Government or any Government should teach the people what they must do in their leisure. But we ought to be prepared to teach them what they can do with their leisure, to find out what their interests are and how those interests can be developed, and we ought to provide them with the facilities for developing those interests if they wish it. Physical recreation, vigorous games, physical training and hiking will form a part, and an important part, of any right use of leisure, but it can be only a part; it cannot be all.

I do not believe that physical activity alone is ever going to be wholly satisfactory, but the facilities provided for in this Bill may well lead to the development of other and wider interests. The community sense which comes from being part of a class, the social contacts of games or of the gymnasium, the touch with the interests of other people, the knowledge of other individuals' tastes—all these may combine to make the physical training and recreation of the Bill a gateway to wider activities. Hon. Members will see that in the Bill and the scheme the Government have been careful not to isolate physical training and physical recreation, not to confine the scope of the assistance to be given to activities of the body only. Help can be given to other activities. So this scheme can make a double contribution to the problem, a problem which I hope hon. Members will not think me fantastic in describing as a problem of supreme importance. I believe that on our ability to solve this problem of the use of leisure, more perhaps than on anything else is going to depend the future of this country and of this civilisation. I think it was Bertrand Russell who said: To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilisation. I would add that to be unable to fill it intelligently may well be its final failure. How much had this failure—for failure it was—to do with the collapse of the Roman Empire? They failed to solve this problem, but I believe a greater Empire, greater not only in size and in power, but greater in its ideals, in its equality, in its freedom, in its toleration, and, above all, in its kindliness, can succeed where they failed.

4.16 p.m.

Mr. Lees-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech which, especially in the later portion of it, was of a type such as we do not often hear in this House, and which we very much welcome. Many of the general observations were full of a wisdom which we all appreciate, and there was one section of his remarks which, I think, will be supported by the whole opinion of this House—the section in which he developed the difference between the ideas behind physical training in a country like this, or Sweden, or Czechoslovakia and those in the totalitarian States. I have noticed that some hon. Members who have travelled in the robot countries of Europe have been rather impressed by the type of physical training which consists of hundreds of thousands of men marching like automata. I have not seen them, only pictures of them, and I have not been impressed at all. If I were a native of one of those countries and saw those pictures and realised what is behind them, I should tremble for the future of my native land, because some time ago I noticed when in a museum that the species which are becoming extinct are those with huge bodies and pin-point brains.

This scheme, by contrast, is based upon the voluntary principle, but it is this very fact which leads to the central danger, the central weakness, of it. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to that in his speech, although I pointed it out to him in the earlier debate. The central danger of this scheme is that it is based upon existing organisations which have been doing work of this in the past. The plan is to provide them with large capital sums by which they can, more or less, extend the work, and, inevitably, extend it more or less along the lines on which it has been developed. These organisations have confined their efforts almost entirely to one section of the community—the clerical section, the commercial section, the black-coated workers. They are the section who feel the need for this kind of exercise, who demand it, and who are already utilising the opportunities afforded to them; but the greatest need of physical improvement is not among this section but among factory operatives and others such as those who work in pits. The whole bias of this scheme, being based upon the organisations which work for another section of the community, will leave the needs of this particular class in the background. Unless very special precautions are taken, of which there are no signs, the scheme will help those who without a scheme of this kind, would still be able to obtain most of the physical education, or at least physical recreation, which they need.

If the House bears that fact in mind it will see that it is essential to realise the importance of the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman drew between physical recreation and physical training. So far as physical exercise is concerned, I think there is a great deal of exaggeration in the belief that strenuous physical exercises up to about 25 years of age will guarantee you health for the rest of a long life. Most of us have been reading the observations of medical officers of health and medical men upon this subject, and they point out that if you look at the hikers, footballers and tennis players among those clerical sections of the population, you notice how many physical defects are to be found among them—one shoulder higher than the other, contracted chests, wrong muscle development, all of which is going to take a toll of them many years hence. Lord Dawson of Penn, in a letter to the "Times" a few days ago, pointed out that he saw a group of Territorials marching—here you have very selected men—and he carefully noted them and came to the conclusion that 5o per cent. of them were suffering from physical defects which mere exercises will not remedy, and which will take a heavy toll of them in later life.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke with some pride of the composition of the committee which is controlling this scheme. Lord Dawson is one member, and I think there is one other scientific member, and I wish there were a good many more of that type, but he specially called our attention to the athletes on the committee. While I agree that all those sprinters, sloggers, tennis stars, and boxers may add to its standard of physical beauty, I doubt whether that particular section have in the past specially concentrated their minds upon problems like that of the factory girl suffering from anaemia, and those are the problems on which we need to concentrate in this scheme. Therefore, I would say that this scheme needs not only the development of the remedial exercises to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, but the development of open-air recreation differing in type from violent physical exercises. When I go through a factory in my own constituency and see all the mill girls at work, the first thing that comes into my mind is not that those girls need more exercise—they have got too much exercise; they are driven all day—but quietude and rest in the open air.

The right hon. Gentleman made one remark which I thought was unjustified about football matches—a rather superior remark—in which he spoke of the spectators who never became participants in games of football. He may learn very valuable lessons from the great crowds which attend football matches. After all they are mostly middle-aged people. Young fellows of 18 or 19 will play football if they can find the means and the opportunity. Those who watch are mostly middle-aged people and it has always seemed to me that it is a sign of the instinctive common sense of the workers of this country that they have realised that what they want on a Saturday afternoon is some quiet interest in the open air. A week or two ago I read some interesting observation about football crowds by Canon Peter Green, one of the greatest temperance advocates in the land. He said in one of his articles in the "Manchester Guardian" that he had come to the conclusion that the habit of the workers going to watch football matches on Saturday afternoons had done more for temperance than all the temperance societies in the land. Therefore, I do not agree at all with the right hon. Gentleman's superior attitude towards that particular form of recreation.

Mr. Stanley

Would not the right hon. Gentleman prefer that if they were young and fit they should play football rather than watch it?

Mr. Lees-Smith

I should certainly prefer it, but I am speaking of the football crowds, among whom the majority are not young men of football age, and I am saying that from those older men the right hon. Gentleman may learn the lesson that what is wanted for those who are hard-driven in factories during the week is a form of restful occupation in the open air at the end of the week. Therefore, I should suggest the development of holiday camps and camping sites—I see that he puts them last in the order of importance—to which these people could go at week-ends and during holidays with pay, where they would have good air, and not more physical exercise than that for which their occupations would create a desire.

There is another feature of this scheme which needs to be borne in mind. The right hon. Gentleman has concentrated mainly upon the young men and women of an age, as he says, when they can take physical exercises, but a man's health, taking the whole of his life through, depends just about as much on what he does after he is 25 as on what he has been doing before that age. I believe the committee are in touch with the B.B.C. In a country like Norway, I understand, the vast proportion of the population undertake physical exercises every morning under directions given over the wireless, and I have never understood why the B.B.C. should not provide a course of physical exercises during that part of the day when they broadcast nothing, except occasionally a few cricket scores. I am suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman might follow that up by getting into touch with gramophone companies. Why should we not have gramophone records for physical exercise for those who do not find the hours of the B.B.C. convenient? [An HON. MEMBER: "There are"] Yes, but I rather mean with all the publicity of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken behind them, and the kind of exercise which would be sponsored by the committee, who would watch the whole thing.

Mr. Crossley

May I point out that the National Council for Health and Beauty have a regular series of such gramophone records?

Mr. Lees-Smith

I am suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman what I think is not done at the present time, namely, that he should get into touch with those who have such a scheme. I would make one further observation on the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman about the use of leisure. If he wishes to develop the use of leisure he might take a very strong step to develop in the schools a liking and understanding of gardening. [Interruption.] Do not let us be too superior about this matter. My experience is that if a man wants to maintain health after he is 25 years of age for the rest of his life, it is far more valuable for him to have an interest in gardening and opportunities to develop it than for him to have been a great centre-forward before he was 25.

I come now to that part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which he spoke about a matter which is quite definitely at issue between the two sides of the House, that is, the connection between this scheme and the problem of nutrition. Our view of that problem is very well put in a letter by Lord Baden-Powell published in the "Times" recently, in which he summarised his experience thus: It is no good imposing on underfed and ill-nourished boys hard physical exercise. The thing is to get them properly fed on good plain food I think the right hon. Gentleman would accept that proposition.

Mr. Stanley indicated assent.

Mr. Lees-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman said that he would use all the machinery at his disposal to ensure that no child should go to school with an ill-nourished body. That was a most far-reaching statement to come from one in his position. From the way he spoke and some of the observations he made, he gave me the impression that he thought he was committing himself to something rather small, and that the proportion of children who would come under the definition would be comparatively minute; whereas, I am going to argue that he has committed himself to a very large under- taking indeed, far larger than he has hitherto led the House to expect. He says that there is only a small minority who would come under the attempt to ensure that physical training was backed by proper feeding. I know that the Board of Education have issued the figures, which have been frequently quoted in Debates by Members of the Government Front Bench upon the subject, in the annual report of the Medical Officer on the subject of the health of the school child. The number in which nutrition is apparently bad, and who would come under the scheme, is only 7 per cent. I do not think that the record of the Board of Education on this question of the proportion of children suffering from malnutrition is a very reliable one; as a matter of fact, it is now notorious that even a year or two ago their figures were quite unreliable. The Board have, in fact, in this report, repudiated their original data.

The figures upon which the right hon. Gentleman relies are based upon the impression made upon medical officers of health by looking at children. It is clear that the standard taken by a medical officer of health in looking at children is that to which he is accustomed in the neighbourhood in which the school is situated. According to that standard—if you take that as a standard—you get the figure of 7 per cent. with bad nutrition and 74 per cent. who are normal. Suppose the medical officers of health took as their standard the children at, say, Rugby, Eton or Winchester. You would then find that your 74 per cent. would be abnormal. I was very much impressed in the last Debate by the anecdote told us by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He gave away the prizes at Spennymoor County School, and when he looked at the children he made an inquiry, because he had taken it for granted that they were two years younger than they were. That is to say, the standard of the Spennymoor County School was two years behind the Surrey standard to which the hon. Member was accustomed. Therefore, if you take the Spennymoor standard you get your 75 per cent. but, if you took the Surrey standard, your 75 per cent. would be subnormal. In fact, the whole basis of attempting to judge this problem by the method of looking at the children in front of you and asking whether they are up to the average of the neighbourhood is entirely unscientific, and is now being condemned.

Mr. Stanley

When the hon. Member says that the method is now being condemned, may I point out to him that the Nutrition Advisory Committee say that the method of the Board of Education is the most promising?

Mr. Lees-Smith

I will refer in a moment to the right hon. Gentleman's statement. What is the present method of assessment? You take the average as your standard and then you discover that the average is normal. That is all. I could have predicted the result in advance, without any of this elaborate investigation. As a matter of fact, the whole of the system has been swept aside in one sentence in a letter to the "Times" on 26th February by Professor Julian Huxley who spoke of: the highly unscientific method of taking as our standard merely the existing average. There is an alternative method, and the method has been followed up in the very report which the right hon. Gentleman quotes. The committee make those very tentative remarks about the Board of Education and they go on to say just what I have been saying. They sum it all up by saying that they could not recommend any known method as reliable.

Mr. Stanley

The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the method of the Board of Education has been condemned by all scientists. Perhaps he will read the paragraph of the report in which the committee say: So far as our present knowledge goes, it would seem that the clinical method given in detail in Administrative Memorandum No. 124 of the Board of Education is the most promising. Nobody could say from that comment that the method has been condemned by all scientists.

Mr. Lees-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman must read the whole paragraph. They say that the method of the Board of Education is the most promising, but I have already read the sentence in which they say that no known method is at present reliable. Then they go on to say that part which the right hon. Gentleman has read, and they add the following: The trial of this method (of the Board of Education) has not been sufficiently prolonged to establish its reliability. That is exactly the point that I am making; the method is not reliable. I am saying also that there is another method, which is the method on which we have relied since I have been in the House. It gives results which scientists say are far more reliable. That is the method of calculating in what is called the science of nutrition, and which, I see, this report says is one of the most valuable contributions to knowledge that the medical profession are now making. The method of the science of nutrition is to calculate the number of proteins, calories and vitamins required for physical efficiency at different ages. Then you calculate what it costs, taking the average over a group of people, to buy sufficient food to provide the minimum essentials of those elements. Then you calculate what proportion of the people of this country are buying that food and can afford to buy it. On those lines, they say, you can get to a reliable result. Those are exactly the methods that are being followed up by the Committee on Nutrition. They say that those are the lines to follow, and they give no countenance whatever to the belief that you can ever get reliable results by the rule-of-thumb, mid-Victorian methods on which the figures are based upon which the right hon. Gentleman relies.

That committee has not yet reached 'a final conclusion as to what percentage of the population, judged by this method, will be found to be suffering from malnutrition, but individual members have reached their own conclusion. What are their reports? You can take either of the two limits, the report of the British Medical Association, which has come 40 the conclusion that this line of inquiry reveals that 30 per cent. of the school population are suffering from malnutrition as against the 7 per cent. of this report; or the report of Sir John Orr, who is a member of the committee, and who has come to the conclusion that the optimum diet was absent from 50 per cent. of the school children. That is why I say that this is a much larger issue than the right hon. Gentleman believes. If he is going to carry out the undertaking that he has given to the House this afternoon, he will find himself faced with a revolution. Indeed, the most valuable part of this scheme is not likely to be the scheme itself, but those results of it which have not been intended. The most valuable part of it will undoubtedly be that the scheme will force open the whole issue of the standard of living of the people of this country, on which hon. Members behind me have for years been asking the public to concentrate their minds.

4.44 P.m.

Sir Francis Acland

On behalf of those whom I represent, and as one of those Members of the House who, though no longer youthful, have preserved relative concavity, and as one who regularly takes his pint of milk a day, I very much welcome the Bill, and particularly the speech in which the Minister put it before the House this afternoon. I welcome particularly that part of his speech, towards the end, in which he talked in such an interesting way about the use of leisure, though, having been in Westmorland lately, I was not wholly unprepared to hear some of it this afternoon. It was, however, nice to hear it instead of only to hear about it, as I had previously done.

Undoubtedly the Bill is a move in the right direction, and will do great good. I say that without reserve. But I am bound to say, on the topic referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley {Mr. Lees-Smith), that I am sure the campaign which it would be necessary to have behind this Bill to ensure better physical training and recreation—a campaign into which the Minister is throwing so much energy and ability—would have gone better, and would go better in the House, if it were being more visibly connected with and accompanied by a preliminary campaign for better nutrition. I do not want to go into the question of nutrition, but, realising all the difficulties to which the Minister refers, I do say that it is surely high time that we took some step, in spite of those difficulties, to bring to an end the present position as to milk, under which, according to the latest figure I can get, no less than 400,000,000 gallons a year are sold at ½d. a quart for factory purposes, whereas it is a penal offence to sell that same milk for human consumption at less than 3d., or sometimes more, a pint.

I should also have been even more pleased with the Bill if alongside of it the Minister of Agriculture—and here I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley—were promoting a Bill to give those who have no posi tive inclination towards playing football or physical training classes more opportunity than they have now for another use of leisure, namely, the cultivation of allotments under secure conditions of tenure. It seems to me that the cultivation of allotments, and I have been connected with that movement for more than 3o years now, provides good health and recreation for the workers in the best sense of the word "recreation"—recreation of body and mind and spirit—combined with food production, which is likely to be very important if we get into international difficulties, and with nutrition in almost the best way, namely, the production of a variety of vegetables. We all remember what the allotment holders did for us during the late War. None of these things can be done by the methods envisaged in the Bill.

I hope that those people, both inside and outside this House, who as yet have not had any practical experience of what are generally called "keep fit" classes, will obtain it as soon as they can, so as to judge of their value by seeing them for themselves. I believe that where they have been already introduced they are and have been a great success; certainly that is the case in those parts of the country which I know; and it is obvious, without saying anything against some of the other things which are also necessary and are to be provided, that they can be provided more cheaply than the football fields and swimming baths and camping sites which are also properly part of the scheme. I said that I had been in Westmorland lately, and there I heard of classes of that type in which grandmothers and granddaughters together have been waving their legs in the air in complete unison and harmony, much to their own satisfaction and physical benefit and to the edification of the beholders; and I believe that the same sort of thing is going on in other parts of the country.

So far as my limited knowledge goes, women are at present keener on this work than men are. I think that that is partly because they have generally more sense—sense to take up quickly new things which become possibilities for them—and partly because they are more accustomed, as most of us realise, than men and boys are, to come together without regard to the class to which they belong in organisations such as the women's institutes, which have no proper counterpart on the male side.

It would, however, be a mistake to regard these "keep fit" classes as being wholly or mainly for women and girls, and it would be almost equally a mistake—and here I am not sure that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley—to regard these classes as being mainly intended for those who are not manual workers. The movement is a comparatively new one, and none of us know all about it yet, but, so far as my experience has gone, when young men who may have been engaged all day in quite hard manual work go to these classes in the evening, they do not find that they are too tired to enjoy them and get great refreshment from them. I suppose the reason is that, while most manual work is rather monotonous, and tends to exercise exclusively certain sets of muscles, the work in these "keep fit" classes exercises the whole bodies and minds of those who take part in them, and in a really re-creative way, which does not make people too tired, but, on the contrary, fitter next morning When their ordinary work time comes round. It would be a mistake, therefore, for those who are more interested, as some of us are, in getting better exercise and training for young men, to think that no progress can be made under this scheme without an extension of football grounds, swimming pools and so on, however important they undoubtedly are.

On the Bill itself I want to take three points, which are rather more than committee points, and I hope the Minister will take them, as they are meant, as constructive rather than negative criticism. In the first place it seems to me that the National Advisory Councils are left a little in the air in regard to one matter. I refer to the last Sub-section of Clause 3, which rightly provides that the Board of Education may take steps for disseminating knowledge with respect to the value of physical training and recreation. That is to be done on the recommendation of the Grants Committee, but I venture to think it would have been more natural that it should have been done on the recommendation of the National Council. One reads in Clause I of the Bill that it is the job of the National Councils to advise on matters relating to the maintenance and improve ment of the physical well-being of the people by means of exercise and recreation, and it seems to me that it would be more natural that they rather than the Grants Committee should at any rate take the initiative in advising the Board of Education as to the dissemination of knowledge on the subject. I say that particularly in view of the Minister's statement, which I was glad to hear, that the National Council had already appointed a sub-committee to consider propaganda.

Coming to my second point, I made some comment, which I do not want to repeat to-day, when we discussed the White Paper, on what seemed to me to be there intended, namely, that organisations interested in what were called, I think, local projects, should have some power of applying for grants direct to the Grants Committee. I am glad to hear definitely from the Minister to-day that this is not intended, but that, quite rightly, any such application must go through what is called in Clause 2 the local committee, and not direct to the Grants Committee.

But, although that is cleared up, and I think in the right way, there still remains a point in connection with Clause 2. It seems to me that the powers of the local committees are rather unnecessarily restricted. They are to transmit any applications they receive, with their recommendations. That means that they will, for instance, say that the application of place A is for a 100 per cent. grant, and the application of place B is for only a 50 per cent. grant, and they cannot agree with that disparity in request considering the means and needs of the places. My point is that, although that is all to the good, and is no doubt a stage to which you must go, it will in many cases only be the beginning of the matter, because the Grants Committee, instead of deciding simply on that report, will, if it knows its business, as of course it will, particularly under the chairman who has been appointed, refer the matter back to the local committee to go into the relative claims of the two places and make something which will in effect be a well-ordered scheme for the area, in which there will be reasonable uniformity, corresponding, of course, with local means and local needs, and which will, therefore, go far beyond the making of recommendations on local projects.

My last point is this: Under Clause 6 of the Bill the present restrictions on what local education authorities may do to promote social and physical training are quite rightly removed, and under Clause 3 the Board of Education is given wide powers to aid local authorities or voluntary organisations, primarily with respect to capital needs, and exceptionally with respect to maintenance. Under Clause 4 we have the corollary that local authorities are given the same rights, in a rather more direct way, to aid capital undertakings and also to undertake maintenance.

I think that, if those of us who know something of county government visualise the working of that machinery, they will find that in many counties one of the main practical matters to be determined will be the relative and respective shares of the government and of the local authorities in providing the money that will be required to get some of these things into permanent working order, and one asks oneself by whom will the local authorities be advised; on whose report will they act; which department of the authority will submit the necessary estimates? I suggest that it will be undoubtedly the education authority and the education committee of the council, because I do not see that Clause z provides that these local authorities will have any direct access, in the way of asking for money, to the county council without going through some committee, presumably the education committee, which has full power to deal with the matter. If I am right in that, my point comes down to this, that I would ask the Minister, seeing how much he will have to depend on the active interest of the local education authorities, both as to the use of their powers under Clause 6 and as to advising the local authorities under Clause 4, not to be too much taken up with promoting new and "super" local committees under Clause 2 of the Bill. I feel rather strongly that, unless this work, in the main, grows naturally out of the schools and out of what local education authorities have been and are now increasingly doing, there may be a danger of imposing a new edifice of authorities without getting very much done after all. These are my only points, and I hope the Minister will realise that I have meant them to be helpful. Again I say that I welcome the Bill.

5.0 p.m.

Viscountess Astor

I apologise to the, Minister for not having heard his speech, but I have been on a deputation to another Minister. I congratulate him on bringing in the Bill, because it will be helpful in many ways. I believe he said something about the difficulty of getting young children to take milk. I do not want to agree too much with the Opposition, but I am certain that the question of malnutrition is one of the problems that the country will have to face in the next two or three years. Our standard of health now is much higher than it used to be, but 95,000 children entering our elementary schools are physically defective in some way. They have some small physical defect which, if taken in time, could be prevented. Of 100 medically examined children who enter our schools, 15 need medical attention, 15 need observation, half of them show signs of rickets and two-thirds have defective teeth. All that is really not necessary and, if the Government would say to the country, "We have to get to the bottom of this and see how we can prevent it," it can only be done by open-air nursery schools. It is not only milk. A great many of these children need sleep, fresh air and proper play. Men in the House of Commons keep on talking about giving people proper food. A child needs more than food to keep fit.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Give it food first.

Viscountess Astor

How little the hon. Member knows about it.

Mr. Griffiths

I know more than you do.

Viscountess Astor

I wish the hon. Member would be patient with me. Sleep, fresh air, play and proper environment are just as important as food. I wish the House of Commons as a whole would take the trouble to go and see what can be done in open-air nursery schools, and see how few there are in the country. The London County Council talks tremendously about them, but has not built one. It is not a party question. All parties have said they are good things, but we are getting very few built. I know the Minister believes in them, and it would not be very difficult to change our infant departments into open-air nursery schools. We may not get them for 10 years, but we ought to have a policy leading to them. This idea of keeping fit and giving more food in the schools is a patch-work policy. You want to get right down to the bottom of the problem. I am a little disappointed that there is not more pressure in the House of Commons to get down to the very root of the problem. If we want these young people to keep fit, we have to see that they are not allowed to work more than 40 hours a week. I should like to see almost a Ministry to deal with young people, and it would be very important to have a woman in it. I hope the Minister will look well into this problem of children entering school in an unfit state. It is sheer waste of time trying to educate children who are not properly nourished and trained. If you get these children in time you can teach them how to enjoy leisure. It depends more than anything else on training the faculties. I know an instance of a child who had been to an open-air nursery school and met his teacher again when he was 12 years old. She asked him what he had most enjoyed when he was at the nursery school, and he said, "When you showed me that beautiful butterfly." The thing that had lasted all those years in that slum child's mind was the beauty of a butterfly. That child had been trained for leisure and, if you begin young enough with these open-air nursery schools, you are beginning to train children for leisure.

Mr. Cove

Am I to assume that the Noble Lady wants nursery schools for children of all classes?

Viscountess Astor

Of course I want them. The hon. Member is making conversation. He knows it as well as I do. I have said often enough that I believe it is the basis of a democratic education. I do not believe you will get democratic education till you begin at the bottom. Of course I want it for all, but we are talking at the moment about crowded areas and the children living in them. I beg the Government, when considering the question of physical fitness, to bear in mind that there is no other way in which they can get the children properly trained, fed and nurtured unless they begin before they get into school. Only 7 per cent. of the children who have been to open-air nursery schools are physically defective in any way. The expense is nothing compared with what we are paying for medical services. Our school service costs £4,500,000 a year. It costs five times as much to keep a child in a special school, and eight times as much to keep it in a hospital. It would be far more constructive to have a ten-year plan rather than giving way to popular clamour about keeping fit. Four million people in the country are undernourished. There are 1,860,000 children between two and five, and only 200,000 have any accommodation in infant departments; 80 per cent. of children under five belong to families earning less than £4 a week, and half the number have less than £3 a week.

It is a terrific problem that we have before us, and it cannot be put right just on a keep-fit policy. When a child of 14 leaves school and then has to work 40 or 50 hours a week, it is no good talking about physical recreation and sports. We have to see first that they get a start in open-air nursery schools and, secondly, the hours of labour have got to be shortened. No child under 18 ought to work more than 40 hours a week. If we attend to that, we may have in time a really A.1 nation. I am grateful to the Government for what they have done but, being a National Government, representing all that is best in the country, I expect a national programme to deal with children right up to 18.

5.15 p.m.

Captain Elliston

I should like to join those who have thanked the Minister for introducing the Bill, which we believe will mean a very great deal to the health and happiness of the country. We have heard it said that the Minister of Labour will soon have his opposite number in the Minister of Leisure, or, as suggested by Lord Horder in another place the other day, that we should have a Minister of Pleasure. The Bill to-day marks a very definite first step in that direction. I think that we are all anxious, in these days of greater enlightenment, to supply an antidote to the deadly monotony of mechanised industry. I am glad that this afternoon we have heard nothing of the gibe that this scheme is for the production of cannon fodder. I have heard this suggestion in my own constituency, and I am glad that we are spared that suggestion to-day. We all agree that this scheme, as far as it relates to courses in physical training, is for voluntary entrants, and that they are to be purely of a recreational character, that there shall be no enforced standard of efficiency and no compulsory attendance, and only very small fees, if any at all. In fact, it is to be an entirely voluntary scheme for the better health and happiness of the people.

What is the present position? For generations past, there have been a host of organisations with recreational activities in all parts of the Kingdom. Clubs and societies have been run by old school associations, voluntary organisations, by such philanthropic bodies as the Y.M.C.A., and by great business houses. In spite of all that provision, it is estimated that as many as 80 per cent. of the boys of this country get no regular exercise after leaving school. In the case of women and girls the position is even worse. I would mention the magnificent pioneer work that is now being done in Lancashire in that connection. We have there a keep-fit movement, which is well known, I have no doubt, to the Minister. The effort was sponsored by the National Council of Girls Clubs to cater on a large scale for the physical needs of working girls. That movement has gained unique experience in organisation. Lancashire was the first county with fully organised classes open at a cost of a penny to all women and girls in every industrial town throughout the county. The results achieved have been quite remarkable. It not only appeals to young girls, but it is immensely appreciated by older women and by unemployed workers who have hitherto been quite unattracted by the sort of physical advice given to them in the' beauty magazines. The organisers have been assisted in their work, and in exploring the course which their scheme should take, by valuable medical advice, which has put them into a position to speak with an authority which is possessed by nobody else.

How can the Government scheme co-operate with these voluntary schemes already in operation? Everything will depend upon the work done by the local committee set up by the National Council under the Bill. It is only through such Committees that you can get the necessary co-operation between the local education authorities and the voluntary organisations. The need for such co-operation has been recognised for many years past. We have had juvenile organisations which have done remarkably well within their limitations. I have been told by a county council organiser that in the Borough of Willesden alone there are as many as 130 athletic clubs and organisations, with 3,000 members between the ages of i6 and i8 years. For a long time they were working as isolated units, but the Juvenile Organisation Committee has brought them all together. They have promoted between them a scheme of mutal assistance, and, in combination, they have got help from the county and the borough councils in the form of grants and facilities which they had never secured before.

The Minister has summarised very clearly for us to-day the line to be taken by the local committees, how they are to survey the whole provisions available in the neighbourhood in the matter of recreation, how they are to supply what is missing, how they are best to utilise the resources available, what sections of the community are supporting each type of organisation, the possibility of development, and to what extent existing organisations are prepared to co-operate with the local committee under the Bill. Such a survey must undoubtedly do much to reduce the overlapping that exists to-day, and it will enable us to use to the best advantage the resources which are at present available. The organiser I have already quoted mentioned to me a typical case which may be dealt with under the Bill. A great business house provides ample playing fields for the benefit of its employés. There is a sufficient acreage for all requirements—tennis, cricket, football and bowls—but there is no indoor accommodation. The employés of that business firm who wished to set up other organisations for swimming, gymnastics, table tennis and so on, found it impossible to form special sections of the club because the cost of hire of the necessary accommodation was too much, and that accommodation was in most cases the property of the local authority. Under this scheme those people can go to the local committee and can state their requirements; the local authority, assisted by State grants, can supply their requirements, and, in return, they can say to the owners, "You can use our swimming baths and gymnasium if you in your turn will give us reasonable use of your playing fields when they are not required for other purposes.

Physical training is being exploited by all sort of cranks. We have weightlifters, beauty culturists, professional athletes and others, each with their own fancy system, but without any sound knowledge of the physiological considerations. It is here that the local committees will require the advice and assistance of trained experts with the highest possible qualifications, both theoretical and practical. At first there will probably be a shortage of men instructors, but for the past 35 years there have been training in this country a considerable succession of educated women who are fully competent to supply the needs to be experienced in the early days of the scheme. I hope that the matter of instructors will be largely undertaken by the local education authorities, because I can see no other way in which you can give full-time employment to properly qualified-persons. The local education authorities should take on sufficient physical training instructors for the whole time, for the purposes of the schools by day and for other purposes outside school hours.

Mr. Ede

They will not get much leisure, will they?

Captain Elliston

Naturally they will not work 24 hours, but it can be so arranged that they can be allocated for duties under the new scheme. I am anxious to see elderly and corpulent schoolmasters relieved of the indignity of having to touch their toes when teaching children physical jerks in school. There are many school teachers trying to teach physical exercises to-day who would gladly be relieved of that duty. We should provide a sufficiency of qualified instructors to do all the work in the schools, some of whom could undertake other duties outside.

Given the right kind of instructors, I believe that there must be an immediate response from the people. There must be no suggestion of the barrack square or even of the class room. This wants to be a voluntary gathering together for enjoyable exercises. Many of our pleasure resorts have shown what a popular demand there is for this physical training. At some places instructors have gone almost unannounced on to the beach, and, within a few days, hundreds of persons have assembled day by day for voluntary exercises. I hope that under this Bill we shall see on the gates of all our public parks and gardens notices that an instructor will attend to give exercises to those who require them at convenient hours on most days in the week. I believe that this would be welcomed by a great number of people, and that it would be of great advantage to the community. It should be possible to obtain much assistance in this direction from volunteers; the type of natural leaders who become officers and non-commissioned officers in the Territorial force would, no doubt, be willing to come along and assist a social service of this description. I hope also that before long a medical man will be attached to these instructional courses, one who will search for the signs of malnutrition we have heard about, and will warn persons who are unfitted for violent physical exercise and suggest to others ameliorative treatment in order to make them physically fit. Hon. Members the other day met Dr. Kurt Hahn, the distinguished German educationist, who has trained school boys in Germany to come over here and defeat us in athletic events in which we thought we could hold our own. His methods have been the subject of very great surprise and admiration. He is now conducting a school in Scotland where he is achieving the same results with British boys, and where he is working all the time on the principle of adapting the physical exercises to the physical condition of the boys.

The Minister has rightly said that the success of the scheme will depend very greatly on wide publicity. The people have to be taught that the facilities are available and must be encouraged to make use of them. I am glad that the Bill includes power for the Treasury to sanction expenses to cover the cost of teaching the public the value of physical education. There will be a great opportunity for the Ministry of Health to include this subject in its coming campaign for the education of the people in matters of health. It is obvious also that this question of physical education might very well be included in the routine programme of the Central Council for Health Education.

For this campaign we are thinking of the millions of people who at the present time get no training and who never expect to excel in any sort of games or sport. We are not looking for Olympic champions or for potential soldiers. We are looking for citizens so improved in physique, that they may bear their load cheerfully, with full enjoyment of life. It will not be easy to achieve, but with the patriotic support of all classes in the carrying out of the objects of this Bill we may get not only better health for the people of the country but we may get back something of that spirit to which the Minister referred, the spirit of the old Merrie England that was submerged by the Victorian growth of our drab industrial towns.

5.33 P

Mr. G. Griffiths

I should like to congratulate the Minister on the way he has introduced this Bill for physical training and recreation. It is not often that I throw any bouquets. To judge from what certain hon. Members have said, this Bill might be regarded as a sectional Bill, but I think it is a cradle to the grave Bill. The only thing that is weighing on my mind is that the bulk of the finance of the Bill will be passed down to the rates. The rates to-day, with the exception of those of the pleasure resorts, are high enough. There is a cry all over the country about high rates, and I am satisfied that although the Treasury is going to provide £800,000 per annum for three years towards the expenditure, the brunt of the expenditure will be borne by the local authorities. I am much disturbed about that. I should have been far more grateful and I should have welcomed the Bill much more heartily if the Treasury had borne the full financial burden.

The hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Captain Elliston) said something about a physical instructor going down to the beach at Hastings and that he had soon hundreds of people surrounding him. The people who need this physical exercise do not generally go down to the beaches. They have not the money with which to go. They cannot have holidays. Until I came to this House I worked for 43 years in industry and never had a day's holiday with pay. There are hundreds of thousands of workers who cannot afford to go on holidays. They have not sufficient to keep body and soul together. Therefore, I am afraid that that class of people will not materially benefit from the Bill.

There is another point to which I would direct the Minister's attention. In the industry with which I am primarily interested three shifts are worked at the pits. Thousands of boys between the ages of 14 and 18 work on the night shift. When are you going to give them physical training? When they arrive home in the morning, about 7.30 or 8 o'clock, they go to bed, and they have worked so hard in the pit that they would stay in bed until it was time to go to the pit again at night, if their parents did not rouse them. I know what I am talking about. I have gone through it myself. What are you going to do with those lads so far as physical training is concerned? There are those who are working on the day shift. There are lads in my village who get up at 4.30 in the morning and go to the pit at 6 o'clock and do not return home until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. When they come home they drag themselves along like old men. What are you going to do with those lads in regard to physical training? Those lads are between the ages of 14, 18 and 21. The Minister said that the secondary schools could not at present supply recreation for anyone over 18 years of age, but that under this Bill they would be able to supply it for all ages.

Mr. Stanley

Not the secondary schools; the authority for higher education.

Mr. Griffiths

I appreciate the correction. What I am worried about is in regard to those who have left school. There are thousands of men and women who have no desire and no energy left for physical training when they get home. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) was right when she said that we need shorter hours of labour. I do not want to introduce a jarring note this afternoon, but when we ask for shorter hours the majority of hon. Members opposite vote against us.

Viscountess Astor

For juveniles.

Mr. Griffiths

For the middle-aged as well as juveniles. The men who get out of bed at 4.30 in the morning and do not get back home until 4 in the afternoon need shorter hours. I should like to quote from a pamphlet issued by the Political and Economical Planning Association. They give figures appertaining to the conditions in the country so far as the consumption of milk is concerned, and they show that the less the wage the less milk there is consumed in the home. Sir John Orr in his tables gives certain groups. In Group No. 1, where the weekly income per head is 10s., the consumption of milk per person per week was one pint of liquid milk and 6 of condensed milk. In Class 2, from 10s. to 15s. per head, the consumption was two pints of milk per person per week. In Class 3, 15s. to 20s. per head, the consumption was 2.6 pints. When you get down to an income of 45s. per week the consumption was 5.4 pints of milk per head per week.

Viscountess Astor

What do they spend on beer?

Mr. Griffiths

I do not know what they spend on beer. The Noble Lady is aware that I am a life teetotaller. I do not spend any money on beer.

Viscountess Astor

Hear, hear.

Mr. Griffiths

Thank you. Dr. M'Gonigle in his book on "Poverty" gives some astonishing facts. In Group A, where the family income per week was between 25s. and 35s.—he surveys the condition of 745 families—46 families consumed only one half-pint of milk per week. I am glad that the Minister has stated that he will put pressure upon local authorities who are not carrying out the instructions in regard to the feeding of children so far as milk is concerned. The most astonishing figures that I have relate to the international situation in regard to milk. We stand the lowest among 12 or 14 countries in our consumption of milk. What is still more alarming is that the price of milk in Britain is higher than it is in any of the other countries. In Switzerland they consume 435 pints of milk per head per annum and in Sweden they consume 42o pints per head per annum. The cost per pint in Sweden is 1.6d. The consumption of milk in Britain is 150 pints per head per annum and the cost is 3.25d. per pint. Therefore, the cost in this country is 3¼d. per pint compared with 1¼d. per pint in Sweden. In Norway, Denmark, the United States, Germany, France, and Belgium more milk is consumed than in this country. Why? Because the cost of milk in Britain is higher than in any other country. I have one more table to which I want to refer—I know I am a little monotonous—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)

I hope the hon. Member will remember the Bill on which he is speaking. I do not want to rule him out of order.

Mr. Griffiths

I was trying to make the point that unless you get a healthy body there is not much chance of getting physical training. I have put the international situation, but when it comes to the farmers at home they are all squealing that they are going into the bankruptcy court or into the workhouse. I have been on a public assistance committee for a long time and I have never known of a farmer coming to the committee. However, here is an opportunity, as far as they are concerned, of getting the people to drink more milk. I have here two tables from Cardiff made by an independent inquiry; not a Socialist inquiry or an inquiry by Government officials. They took four sections of the workers: first, a good middle class; second, a good working class; third, a new housing estate; and, fourth, a poor working class. They analysed their conclusions in this way. In Group 1 the consumption of liquid milk per person per week was 3.88 pints; in the good working class, 1.87 pints; in the housing estate, 1.32 pints; and in the poor working class, 1.10 pints.

Mr. Montague

How much beer?

Mr. Griffiths

We will come to beer directly. The point I want to drive home is that if people were given increased wages they would spend the money on milk. My last group of tables—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is really getting too far away from the Bill. His broad argument is in order, but he is going into details and matters which cannot be dealt with in this Bill.

Mr. Griffiths

I am sorry, Sir Dennis, that you were not present when the President of the Board of Education spoke. He devoted a good portion of his time to milk, and the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has been talking about milk.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member must accept my Ruling. There are different ways of talking about milk.

Mr. Griffiths

I will talk about finance. The point I want to drive home is that the amount spent on this commodity in a good middle-class family is 4s. o¾d. per week—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must ask the hon. Member to obey my Ruling, and not to proceed on exactly the same lines as those upon which I stopped him.

Mr. Griffiths

Let me conclude then by saying that we desire that the leisure of the workers shall be well spent as far as they are concerned, and I am quite satisfied that the workers will spend their leisure in the right way and will be physically fit to enjoy life.

5.52 p.m.

Sir Samuel Chapman

This is a Scottish as well as an English Bill, and I want for a few moments to call attention to some aspects of the case as far as it affects Scotland. When we were last discussing this question the Secretary of State for Scotland, in reply to a question from me, said: The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) particularly drew attention to the problem of the less well-off individuals. It is the less well-off individuals of whom we are all thinking.… It is to help those who are not so well off, who have not perhaps so much initiative, and do not know so well how to set about it, that the scheme has really been launched.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1937; col. 528, Vol. 320.] Those words have sunk deep into the minds of the people of Scotland. I have made it my duty to go amongst what I may call the decent young working men of Scotland, who at the present time have not the facilities which the middle classes have for enjoying athletic exercises. I have attended a number of meetings, and I was asked by the representatives of these young workers to convey to the Secretary of State their hearty thanks for his words, which will form the charter of the young athletes of Scotland. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) said that it would be the education authority who would work the Bill. I do not read it in that way, and I should like the Secretary of State to tell me who will really be responsible in Scotland for the working of the Bill. No fewer than five parties will have to be consulted before anything definite is done. There is the National Advisory Committee—it is only advisory—then the Grants Committee, who will receive reports from the Advisory Committee, then the local advisory committees and the Secretary of State himself. That makes four. But the most important body of all, who are now in control of everything appertaining to physical instruction, is the local authority.

In the City of Edinburgh it is the Parks Committee who alone will be able to carry out these duties. They are responsible for the public spaces in Edinburgh, and they have been very active of late years. I went round the public parks of Edinburgh the other day with the convener of the committee, and was shown in the most minute detail what they do to try and satisfy the athletic inclinations of the young citizens of Edinburgh. A rate is levied for the purpose. How can you have an education authority, or any other authority, coming in and exercising power over the local authority? I hope that that point will be cleared up by the Secretary of State. Dr. Thomas Chalmers, a very great citizen of Scotland, said that when big things were being attempted two qualities were essential to greatness—power and promptitude. It may sound a little like a modern dictator, but I want to ask who is going to have the power and who will see that there is promptitude in carrying out this wonderful national scheme? There must be a long view.

The universities of the country were established in dark and difficult times. Our predecessors had vision and establised them in those parts of Scotland where they were wanted. But they give attention only to the spiritual side of education. Now we are going to complete education in this great Measure by paying attention to the physical side. I want to ask the Secretary of State to work with the utmost harmony with the advisory committees so that in the course of the next 10 or 12 years they will have in view the establishment of centres which might be called universities of sport, in much the same way as our predecessors established the universities. There should be, I will not say four Olympias, but four great centres in Scotland. We must strike the imagination of the youth of Scotland, and that we can do in one way. As has been said in the House over and over again, we cannot use compulsion. We must substitute competition for compulsion. If we encourage the natural spirit of sport, which is pleasurable competition, by striking the imagination of the youth of the nation, so that one part of the country will compete with another part, each part doing its duty to uphold its traditions and honour, this great movement will spread like wildfire, and the two Ministers in charge of the Bill will then be able to say that they did a great deal in their day and generation.

6.2 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am sure that all hon. Members who listened to the Minister this afternoon felt that we had a very wide and wise survey of this particular problem delivered in a manner which made it really enjoyable to all. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman feels about the subsequent discussion, but I think he must begin to realise that in this particular matter he will have to be very careful to see that certain faddists and people of one idea do not push their idea on to him, and make it monopolise the scheme. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) foresees salvation in the open-air nursery school. The hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Captain Elliston) seems to find it in depriving teachers of the opportunity of teaching this particular subject in their schools. I agree with neither of the hon. Members on those points. The nursery school has its place, but we must be very careful to see that the nursery school is not made an excuse for the continuance of bad social conditions. The best person to teach a child under five years of age is the child's mother. It is unfortunate that our social system is such that so many mothers have not the time, the opportunity or the environment to do it to the best advantage, but I hope that the nursery school will not be used as an easy way of providing women who would be better employed at home with the opportunity of returning to factories or doing other forms of work instead of looking after the family.

As to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn, in view of the fact that he has again mentioned the subject, I would like to reiterate what I said in the Debate on the White Paper. I hope this subject will not be taught in the ordinary schools of the country by people who are specialists in this one subject. I think that would be very bad for the schools. Every teacher who happens to be a specialist in one subject ought at least to have some other subsidiary subject, and some knowledge of the general work of the school. If the teacher does not have that, the particular subject in which he or she specialises is very badly related to the rest of the work of the school, and the teacher has no clear idea of the particular part which he or she is expected to play in the life of the community which he or she happens to be serving. Moreover, I believe it would be very difficult for women teachers who were physical training specialists only to be sure of employment after reaching 45 years of age or thereabouts. At the recent conference of the National Union of Teachers, I was very interested to note the almost unanimous way in which a proposal that this subject should be pushed on to specialists was rejected by the conference, which consisted in the main of general practitioners. One of the arguments put forward was the fact that unless the profession was very careful about pushing this subject on to specialists who were not qualified in any other subject, it would be faced with a very large number of people just beyond middle age who would not be qualified as general practitioners and who might find it exceedingly difficult to get permanent employment. Therefore, I hope the Minister will not listen too carefully to the proposals put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn.

There is one other thing with regard to the employment of specialists which I think ought to be said. There are very many schools in this country which are comparatively small. Physical education in a school derives a good part of its value from regularity. Thirty years ago, when I was an assistant master, the Surrey Education Committee established a regulation that there should be at least 20 minutes of physical education every day. Obviously 20 minutes every day is far better than 200 minutes a week. It would be absurd to suggest that in the case of some of these children it would be advisable to take more than 20 minutes, but 20 minutes every day in the hands of a school teacher is undoubtedly very useful. If there were specialists, how could one arrange for the rural schools to get the benefit of a specialist every day? It would be an administrative impossibility. I hope that arrangements will be made inside the schools for this work to be done by people who may have rather more knowledge of this subject than some of their colleagues, but who will be general practitioners as well as physical training teachers.

I was hoping that in the course of the very wise general remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made, he would deal with one subject in connection with physical recreation on which he did not touch. If on the Tyneside, among my constituents, some of the shipwrights' apprentices took up rowing and produced, as I have no doubt they could with a little practice and coaching, a first-class eight, would the right hon. Gentlemen use his influence with the authorities at Henley to get a relaxation of the rule that people engaged in manual occupations should not row at Henley?

Sir John Withers

I have a good deal to do with rowing matters, and I should be very interested to know whether there is a rule at Henley that persons employed in manual labour cannot send an eight.

Mr. Ede

I am so informed. Obviously the hon. Member for a University which has just had a bit of bad luck in rowing ought to know, but I have been so informed.

Mr. Noel-Baker

My hon. Friend is quite right. The rule of the Amateur Rowing Association is that a man who earns his living by his hands is not eligible. There are many hon. Members in all parts of the House who would like to see that rule revised.

Sir J. Withers

I will certainly do my best to get it revised.

Mr. Ede

May I now be allowed to resume? I hope the publicity that I have given to this matter and the enlightenment that has been given to the representative of my own University may have some practical result. I would like to emphasise the point that undoubtedly there are in some sports social distinctions which have to be got rid of on the side of physical recreation. If we are to get the sort of spirit which the right hon. Gentleman voiced this afternoon—and I believe he spoke not merely for the whole House, but for the whole country—then the mixing of all classes on the field of sport, without having the professionals and the amateurs walking through separate gates, would be a very great advantage, and one which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, as well as myself, would welcome. I hope that now the matter has been mentioned this afternoon, he will give his support, and that it will be dealt with appropriately when an opportunity arises. With regard to the remarks I made on a previous occasion about the school quoted this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Member. for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), the Minister relieved me of the task that I had voluntarily undertaken of securing an anthropometric survey of the school that he mentioned and a comparative anthropometric survey of similar schools in Surrey. I have not heard whether the right hon. Gentleman has completed his survey, but when he has done so, I hope that if the results are illuminating one way or the other, they will be published.

With regard to nutrition, I am convinced that the child most to be pitied in this country is the badly nourished child in the well-nourished district. For the past four years I have been chairman of the Surrey County Council, and during that period the provisions of the Act concerning meals for school-children were put into force. Then we had this sort of thing happening. There was a report from the medical officer that perhaps three children out of a regulation block of three department schools consisting of 1,128 children were suffering from malnutrition in an area where one naturally expects to find very little malnutrition. I am sure that it is more likely that those three would be overlooked than the children in an area where one expects to find malnutrition. I hope the Minister's statement this afternoon that he intends to see that local authorities do their duty will be applied in those areas just as rigorously as in the areas which he thinks have benefited by the recent division of the block grant. Those three children are just as important to the nation as three children in some area that is classified as "Special" or "distressed."

I welcome whole-heartedly the Amendment of Section 86 of the Education Act of 1921, not merely because of what it allows the local authority to do, but because I am sure that when some of these young people of 18 years of age are introduced into the educational system for physical recreation only, by the Amendment of the Section, they will be drawn in that way into some of the wider activities of the education authority in which they do not participate at the moment. If they are, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman's proposed Amendment of the existing law will be justified from the old academic educational point of view, as well as from the newer and wider point of view which he expressed this afternoon. I hope the Minister will not expect every local education authority to approach him through the medium of the local grants committee. Some authorities will, I think rightly, prefer to deal with him directly. They may feel that any funds which a grants committee has at its disposal could most justifiably be used in areas where the local rates press rather more hardly on the inhabitants than elsewhere.

I am not sure whether a county council, apart from its position as an educational authority, will have the right under this Bill to build a swimming bath. I have tried to get advice on the point but I have not succeeded in getting any very definite advice. Undoubtedly a great impetus has been given to the library movement, for example, since county councils were allowed to act as library authorities. The county libraries which one now sees in rural districts throughout the country give some indication of the results of handing the library movement over to the county councils. There must be many areas in which there are several largish villages or small towns within reasonable proximity of each other, no one of which could be expected to provide a swimming bath. The problem of establishing a joint committee to deal with a question like that might prove insuperable and it would be advantageous if the county council were given power to provide a swimming bath in an area of that kind. I do not like special rates, but I would not mind such a power being accompanied by a power to levy a special rate on the parishes concerned at any rate in the early years of the scheme. I think there is in the Bill an exception with regard to swimming baths which would make it impossible for a county council to do what I suggest.

Apart from that small criticism, I welcome not only the Bill itself, but the spirit in which it has been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman. I sincerely hope it will be administered in that spirit and that the local authorities will realise that if the good words of the Minister are to be made fruitful, it is they who will have to do the work. This is one of those schemes for the success of which we must rely entirely upon the way in which it is applied in relation to the persons in each locality. The personal approach will mean everything. If it is wrong or injudicious in an area, the project will be a failure in that area. But with the right and judicious method of approach and the appropriate leaders, I am sure that the amount of happiness which can be provided for all sections of the community out of this Measure, cannot be fulfilled.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies

Every one in this House desires to see a healthy nation and every one desires that this Bill, as far as it goes, should have the success for which the Minister hopes. Speaking for myself, I say frankly that I do not understand the policy of the Minister and I do not understand this Bill. Every speaker in the Debate so far, with the exception of the Minister, has spoken of this Bill from the point of view of his own constituency. Every one has addressed his mind to the question of the urban area and the urban child. But what is the good of spending money upon the physical training of a child whose life has already been more or less destroyed and who is unfit to be trained? That is the condition in which many of the children in our rural areas find themselves. A very lurid picture of the conditions of young people between 14 and 18 was, rightly, drawn by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) but I wonder whether Members who represent urban areas realise the life led by the rural child in many districts.

Teachers from my constituency recently paid visits to the distressed areas in South Wales and they came back lyrical about the conditions under which the children were being brought up there, compared with the conditions under which the children are being brought up in my area. What is the good of physical training for children whose lives have already suffered because of the conditions under which they live? In the distressed areas the schools are perfect—they have central heating, the children are looked after, meals are provided for them. Compare that with the conditions of the children in my own village. The bulk of them have to walk over 2 miles to school. Some of them, toddlers of 6, have to walk 4 or 4½ miles to school. They are called between 6.30 and 7 a.m. and they have gone to school every day throughout this wet winter. When they get there, there is no means of drying their clothes. The teachers do their best to deal with those who come the greatest distances, and who are always the first to arrive.

I know the conditions because of my own experience. I had to walk 2½ miles to school every morning, having already done pretty nearly a day's work before starting and knowing that when I got home again in the evening there was another day's work awaiting me. I know what happens to these children. They arrive at school wet, they have to stay there until 3.30. All they carry in their little satchels is a packet of sandwiches. There is no means of heating food for them. At about 10.30 a.m. they are allowed out, and they are supposed to eat part of their sandwiches then. I am assured by teachers in the rural districts of Montgomeryshire that when the children are allowed out, say at 10 o'clock, by five minutes past 10 there is not a scrap left in their satchels. They finish it all in five minutes, and at 3.30 o'clock they start their long trek home. They arrive home between 5 and 6 o'clock, and possibly have to go out and get the cows or help in some other way on the farm before at last a meal is ready for them.

Money is to be provided for the urban children, so that physical training can be given to them. By all means let that be done, but why cannot money be provided to help those rural children? We have asked the Minister for assistance. The Minister himself paid a visit to my county, but what did he see? He saw two schools which we have been able to erect and of which we are proud. He did not go to the schools to which he ought to have gone—schools of which we are ashamed, schools which we cannot better. A turn of the economic wheel and your distressed area in South Wales ceases to be distressed, but turn that wheel as you like, and we remain distressed. A penny rate in my county produces only £600 a year compared with one county in England in which a penny rate produces £69,000 a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Because the land is exempt."] What is the good of asking me to provide better schools? I agree that the land has been derated, but the villages in my constituency are poor. We are asked to build houses and to spend more money on roads, but we have not got the money. The amount which we can afford to pay to agricultural workers is the dreadfully low sum of 31s. 6d. a week. I have the honour to belong to a firm where the minimum wage is £3 a week and the day ends at 5 o'clock, but the day of the agricultural labourer in my county is 24 hours. We have very few agricultural labourers because most of the farms are family farms and every member of the family has to help. It is the children of these families for whom, as I say, decent schools cannot be provided. I know a school in which there are two rooms and in which the authorities did indulge in a form of central heating. The central heating consisted of placing a stove in the middle of one room and carrying a pipe into the other room. When the second room was made warm enough for the little mites who had to occupy it, the first room was insufferable.

We have made our appeal through the County Councils Association, that special consideration should be given to rural areas. The total amount we are asking is the amount that can be provided under this Bill for the urban areas—something like £2,000,000. The County Councils Association representatives asked to see the Minister but the Minister for some reason could not see them. They were seen by civil servants. All praise to civil servants but what can they do with regard to policy. Policy is a matter for the Minister and something which he ought to lay before the Cabinet. Naturally, every one is anxious that we should have a nation of perfect men and women, as far as that is possible, but when the Minister is putting this Measure into operation, I ask him to consider those who are unfitted to receive any physical training whatever. To-day I dread to look at some of those who as boys went to school with me. They are racked with rheumatism, thank God I am not. I knew one family of 6 ranging from the age of 5 up to the age of 12. We walked together to school for the last 2½ miles of their journey every morning. Only one member of that family is alive to-day and he is racked with rheumatism. That shows the condition of things in the country schools.

I beg the Minister to do something to help those schools. When I made a similar appeal on a previous occasion a Noble Lord who was then a member of the Government reminded me and the House that the Minister himself represented a division of Westmorland, where the conditions were somewhat similar to those in Montgomeryshire, and he said that my appeal would be like "deep calling unto deep." I have yet to plumb the depths of the President of the Board of Education, but I hope that my appeal now may be answered by him at some time in the immediate future.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Tinker

We have heard an impassioned appeal from the last speaker, but he must know that the Government which he supports are responsible for the means test and that poverty is following on that and because of what has happened. His party is responsible for those conditions, and it is all very well to make an impassioned appeal at a time like this, when there have been occasions when, by a vote, he might have altered them by his own efforts. This Bill is not entirely for children but it is for growing people and for adults as well, and I gather from the outline given to-day that some thought has grown up in the minds of the Government and of the country that the time has now come when the nation must try to get its citizens in better condition. It is found now that the leisure time of the people is not being utilised in the best way, that other countries are trying to deal with it in a better way than we are, and that the time has come when this country must turn its attention to that matter. When we get a Bill like this, some may think that it is intended to get our people right for any emergency, and perhaps for a war emergency, but we are assured that that is not the case.

I believe that physical fitness is necessary to intellectual fitness. I rather look upon the stout fellow as being capable of dealing efficiently with other matters. I may he wrong, but I am reminded about the lean man and the stout man. The stout man goes through life more com- placently than the lean man, who is, I will not say always in search of trouble, but who is trying to get something done. The stout man, not having to carry so much extra weight, is better able to deal with physical jobs. The Minister, when he talked about a concave man, which means, I take it, a flat-bellied man, and a convex man, which means a round-bellied man, seemed to hit at two people on the Treasury Bench in different ways. The Home Secretary, lean, took it as a compliment, but the Minister of Health felt somewhat ashamed when he looked down at his belly and thought, "Does he mean me?" I think the Minister did.

One welcomes this Bill in its general outline, but it calls to mind many inequalities in our social system. When we are talking about physical training, one's mind goes back to a certain section of the population as against the other section, and one wonders whether it will be required for certain people. Let me give an instance of what I mean. On Saturday last I travelled from Bolton in a compartment containing 20 people, which is rather unusual, but it was full of mill girls. There were the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) and I, with 18 mill girls. Many of the girls were so slight and toilworn that there was no question about their being able to get into the carriage. I questioned one of them, and I said, "Do you mind telling me what time you start out in the morning?" She replied, "I start out at a quarter past six." I said, "What time do you finish?" She said, "At 12 o'clock to-day, but on ordinary days it is after 5 o'clock." I wonder what the House feels about physical training for girls like that. There is no chance for them while their hours are so long. In the case of those girls it took from a quarter past six on an ordinary day till round about 6.30 or 7 o'clock to get to and from their work. Would anybody in their senses think that they wanted physical training when they got home? No; they were ready for bed. There is no room for physical training there, and that is why I say there are two sections of the community and that this Bill seems to me to be purposely drawn for one section, the middle-class section, only. I may be wrong in that, but I hope that regard is paid to a number of people who cannot have the opportunity at the present time of making use of this physical training and fitness that the House so much desires.

The Minister spoke about filling up leisure time, and the thought crossed my mind, Why not get shorter hours of work first, and then get ready for the physical training of those who could very well do with it? The Minister is not doing that, and, to my mind, he is starting at the wrong end. I think the Government should set out to adopt a shorter working week for all classes, and then turn their attention to dealing with this leisure time that so many people have on their hands. They have not done that, however, so that I cannot give my whole-hearted support to the Bill, because I am so anxious that my class should enjoy the benefits of the Bill rather than that the other class should. It is all very well to try and get particular benefits for one class, but I hope that an attempt will be made by the Government to bring along these benefits to all our people. Those who now have too much manual exercise, the drudgery of continuing from early morning till late at night, should have their hours lessened, and then the benefits of this Bill could go to them just as much as they will go to what I term the middle and upper classes.

One of the speakers in the Debate this evening may be the famous athlete whom I see opposite, and I know he will make a very effective contribution. He is an example of what physical fitness can do, as his record shows, but I wonder how many of our class would develop, probably not as well as he has, because he is an exception, but, given the opportunities that he has had and that his class gets, I think that the young people of whom I am thinking would do very well in the great events of sport if they got those opportunities.

Lord Burghley

If the hon. Member knew individually the members of the athletic teams which I was privileged to go abroad with, he would have found that the great majority of them were the very people to whom he is referring and that they were actually placed in the Olympic games. It is really marvellous how they find time, working as hard as they do, to produce such physical fitness.

Mr. Tinker

If that is so, I accept the Noble Lord's statement, but what I am trying to do—and I hope he will see my position—is to secure that the benefits of this Bill should go to my class. At the moment I do not think they get the same opportunities as some other people get, and that is why I feel that, although I give a welcome to this Bill, it is not that whole-hearted support that I would give to it if I thought it dealt with everybody in the same way.

6:38 p.m.

Lord Burghley

I had not intended to intervene in this Debate. Rather had I come to listen to the suggestions which would be put forward, but there are one or two points that I would like to make after listening to the speeches so far. I do not propose to touch on the subject of nutrition, because, although it is obviously of the utmost importance, I think it comes rather outside the scope of the work of the Council which has been set up. Nor, for that matter, do I propose to say much about schools, in that the powers of recommendation of the Council are in that direction to a certain extent limited. Nor do I propose to go into the realm of journeys in railway trains, let alone with 20 of the fair sex. One thing has come out in the Debate very much indeed, and that is the very constructive suggestions which have been made from all sides of the House. I listened with eager anticipation to what the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) had to say, and I was a little disappointed, because I expected to hear more, in that she herself has managed to breed and bring up a winner over hurdles.

I would like to touch on one matter in particular, and that is the question which has arisen of the amateur status in one sport. I think there has been a feeling running through the speeches of several Members that there is a possible discrimination between the classes in various sports. In the one sport that I know a good deal about, and that is athletics, I can assure the House that it does not exist. Of the 150,000 members or so affiliated to the Amateur Athletic Association, the enormous majority come from the very classes about which we have heard to-day. Being myself privileged to live up in the Midlands I have run on many occasions in the Midlands, and in the North too, and when you go into the tents and see the athletes changing, you find people from every walk of life happily congregated together for the sport. I would like to emphasise again how wonderful it is that many of these men who are miners or working very hard by the sweat of their brow during the day find time, for cross-country running or for other forms of athletics, to go out in the evening and train and produce the most magnificent results.

May I pass to the question which has arisen about the medical side? I feel sure that the members of the council are fully alive to that point; but I think we have taken one point for granted which is not necessarily so, and that is that any form of exercise or recreation which is recommended should be of a completely exhausting sort. I think that the modern tendency in physical development exercises is that they are not completely exhausting, but rather that you should feel, if anything, refreshed from taking part in them. As far as the production of champions is concerned, I am sure hon. Members opposite will agree that they are freaks and not necessarily what we are wanting to produce. Rather, one wants to raise the standard for the modern performer, who in the past has not had the same facilities as have others. I welcome the suggestions made about the B.B.C. by the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), and I want to assure him that that point has not been missed as far as the council are concerned, and the same with regard to the suggestion about gramophone records.

On the more general subject, the problem is twofold. We have got not only to provide the facilities, which is relatively simple, but we have something far more important to do, and that is to bring about in many people a change of mind. That change of mind comes from propaganda. We want to develop a type of mind, or characteristic, which is already in existence but dormant, and that is to make people take a pride in their physique, to try as far as one can to make them realise the importance of being physically fit. We want them to realise that in all physical fitness there is happiness to be found, and in the preparation for the various sports and recreations there is also happiness to be found. There is a further point, and that is that where people are enabled to take part in these various activities together friendships grow up, friendships which I value, so far as my running friends are concerned, as highly as any friendships that I have.

This task of propaganda, which is a tremendous task in itself, can only be performed by the council if it has the cooperation and help of all men of good heart, from whatever party or walk of life they may come. I make an earnest appeal to Members of the House who are looked on in their districts as leaders in those districts, to do all that they can to help in this propaganda, and to help the work of the local committees which are to be set up under this Bill so that we may have what we all desire to see, a healthier and therefore a happier nation.

6.46 p.m.

Mr. Pilkington

I am sure the House will agree that it is a good thing the Noble Lord came here not only to listen but to give us the benefit of his great experience. I would like to add to what he said about those hon. Members who have dealt with people doing excessive manual work and to remind those hon. Members that the title of this Bill is "Physical Training and Recreation." Also I cannot allow the remark of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) to go unchallenged, when he said that the result of a recent boat race was in any way due to bad luck.

Everybody will agree that generally this country within the last two years has been accelerating the speed of its national evolution. Financially, we are back to our old position of being one of the soundest nations in the world. Politically, as was pointed out in the leader 'in yesterday's "Times," the working of Parliament to-day rivals that of the dictatorships in its scope, promptitude and effectiveness. Domestically, the Government are now dealing with these twin problems of nutrition and physical training. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has pointed out that these two questions are complementary, not exclusive. He has explained that the two principles upon which the Government base this plan are, first, that it shall be voluntary, and, second, that it shall be grafted on to existing machinery rather than be the inauguration of a completely new system. The House in general has shown itself in agreement with those two principles, and although we may agree that in the long run we gain more than we lose by following them, it is undeniable that we do lose something. By keeping this scheme voluntary there will be a certain percentage, as there would be in any country, of slackers who will remain slackers. By grafting it on to existing institutions we lose something of the effect which a completely new plan would have upon the general imagination of the country.

I want to make a few suggestions to offset these drawbacks while keeping the principles themselves intact. With regard to the question of making the system voluntary, I want to say something about how parallel systems work in other countries. In France the Blum Government have created an entirely new post. M. Lagrange has been made the Under-Secretary for the Organisation of Sport and Leisure. That shows the importance which the French Government attach to this question, and it bears out what my right hon. Friend said in what was perhaps the most moving part of his speech, when he was talking about the use of leisure by young people. In Germany the progressive compulsion in physical training culminated in the decree of December, 1936, by which the youth of Germany between 10 and 18, numbering some 8,000,000 young men, were incorporated into the Hitler Youth Movement. In addition to the ordinary school curriculum they have intensive sports every Saturday and camping out every other Saturday. When they leave the Hitler Youth Movement they have to do their six months arduous toil in the labour service. After that they are ready for their two years of conscripted service.

We may compare this nation's record with the figures which were given last December by the Minister of Health, when he estimated that 40 per cent. of our population between 14 and 40 did not participate adequately, if at all, in physical training. That is the position in this country with our voluntary system. As might be expected, however, this voluntary system is something of a compromise because, wherever we have any compulsion for mental training, there is usually also a certain amount of compulsion for physical training. That is so in the schools, but it is emphatically not so in the case of the universities. I should like to see the universities, led naturally by Oxford, remedy this state of affairs by having some scheme by which every undergraduate would partake in some form of physical exercises. A quarter of an hour's P.T. before breakfast would, I think, have the most excellent effect upon the undergraduates themselves and would have an even more valuable effect as an example to the rest of the country.

That brings me to my second point, that the fact of having to graft on to existing institutions means that we lose something in the way of popular appeal which a completely new plan would have. Some such action as this by the universities would have a great effect upon both the public opinion of this country and public opinion abroad. I recall the vivid story which was related to the House the other day by the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays), when he described the way in which the young German student regarded his effete counterpart in England. If I may follow this thought even further, would it not galvanise the whole nation into activity, and other nations into amazed admiration, if this august House itself should set some sort of example? A few simple exercises every day in obedience, Mr. Speaker, to your word of command, would, I think, have a rejuvenating effect upon Members themselves and would also give a most valuable lead to the country.

Unless the Government are able to capture the imagination of our youth this plan will not succeed. Co-ordination is obviously necessary. Would it not be possible to have some sort of State badge which would be awarded to those who attained a certain proficiency in some branch of sport? It is not the super athlete that we want, but the good all-round man. The possession of such a badge would mean that the owner had had to exert himself and go into training to win it. The non-possession of it would mean that the individual was not up to the general standard of fitness. Considerable choice would, of course, be allowed as to which particular branch of sport the individual would compete in. Some such scheme as this, if it were made nation-wide, would he very valuable in itself and would be of use to the Government in estimating the success of their plan as the months go by. It is the aim of this Government, as it would be the aim of any Government, that every person should have an opportunity for health and happiness. The Government can do a lot towards achieving this object. The Press can do a lot, too, but success will never be achieved unless we can secure the whole-hearted co-operation of that individual whom Lord Balfour stated he had never met, but from whom I was privileged to receive a letter from this morning, that is, the "Average Man."

6.57 p.m.

Mr. Denman

; I should like to join my humble voice to the general welcome which has been given to this Bill, and especially to the speech with which the Second Reading was moved. A Bill of this type which provides material and machinery may be very easily passed and may not mean much. If it is administered in the spirit of that wise and capacious speech with which it was introduced, I feel sure that it will have a great effect upon the future of this country. It is a brick in the structure which has been in process of building ever since the Jubilee year, the structure of the better organisation of the welfare of our youth. In recent years our appreciation of the duty of the State towards its youth has advanced very much. If we look back to the Victorian age, we are back in times when thought was dominated by the theory of the survival of the fittest. Consequently, public opinion tolerated a high infantile death rate without any great shock. We all remember meeting grandmothers who were proud of themselves for having been the mothers of 14 and for having buried five. That was the typical ratio which was familiar in the earlier years of this century. It is not only that we have become more humane in our regard towards youth in these later years, but we have come to realise that the greater care for youth is a sociological need. Youth has come to have a scarcity value, and we realise that we must develop British youth in the best way that we can. British youth is obviously the greatest of British assets, and we can no longer afford to waste it in the way that the Victorian age was content to do.

The suggestion I wish to make to my right hon. Friend has already been made by hon. Members opposite, notably the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) and the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). It is that we must take active steps to prevent this Bill being one that is of benefit primarily to sections of the community rather than to the community as a whole. The hon. Member for Leigh instanced the particular case of people whose hours had made it impossible for them to enjoy leisure and recreation. But the workers of whom he was speaking were those who are protected by statutory regulations. They were mill girls, whose hours are controlled. I must remind my right hon. Friend that there are even less fortunate persons, youths of both sexes, whose hours are wholly unregulated and who work far longer than the mill girls to whom my hon. Friend referred.

We have recently had a very interesting report from the Home Office on the hours of young persons in unregulated trades. There was a reference to the matter in the "Times" this morning and I need not delay the House with lengthy quotations. But I wish to put on record some of the hours of work which that committee discovered in the course of their investigations, because it will really be impossible for substantial sections of our young people to take advantage of this physical training and recreation if this Bill were the only achievement of the Government in this direction. I want to take three examples of different occupations that were inquired into by this Departmental Committee. This was the Home Office Departmental Committee on the Hours of Employment of Young Persons in Certain Unregulated Occupations, and the report was issued last month. They have a section relating to vanboys. They could not make an exhaustive inquiry into all these young persons, but they took large samples in many different parts of the country. They found that of 12,580 vanboys whose cases were investigated, 5,733, approximately 45 per cent., worked for 48 hours a week. Of these 4,170 worked up to 54 hours, 1,295 up to 60 hours, 205 up to 66 hours and 63 over 66 hours. These hours in all cases are exclusive of the average intervals for meals, which are taken as amounting to six hours a week. Then they examined the case of errand boys and messengers, but perhaps I need not worry the House with their hours.

I will take the case of page boys and lift boys. They say that of 8,417 page boys and attendants whose employment was investigated no fewer than 7,030 were reported to work for 72 hours a week including meal and rest intervals. These intervals were said to average 24 hours. The final case I will quote is that of page boys and attendants, in places of public entertainment. They investigated the cases of 1,082 attendants in cinemas and theatres and of these 119 were employed for periods of 60 to 66 hours, 'or for periods of 66 to 72 hours and 89 for periods of over 72 hours, including all intervals for meals and rest. It is not alleged that these are cases of gross overwork of young people. There are no doubt some cases where the children are overstrained and tired, but what happens generally is that the work is thinly spread out over these long periods and in such cases you have no chance for any social recreation or organised development of mind or body.

The committee made recommendations. They recommended that as an immediate step these hours should be limited to 48. But what is much more significant is that they regard that merely as a temporary measure. They take 48, because that is the figure recently laid down for shops and the figure which is now proposed in the Factories Bill. They say that they are of opinion that for young persons as a whole a week consisting of as much as 48 working hours is definitely too long to afford the necessary opportunities for continued education and recreation. That, I believe, would also be the opinion of my right hon. Friend. So long as these prolonged hours for young persons, frequently lengthened by overtime, prevail over the large area of our youthful population, it will be impossible to give full effect to the Bill on which we are now engaged. I am confident that my right hon. Friend realises that and is not regarding these comments ag hostile to what he would like.

I want to make one practical suggestion, and that is that the only effective solution is to go back to the solution we passed in this House 19 years ago, which was that of the day continuation school, a system that works in Rugby. Hon. Members can go there and see how it works. What actually works in Rugby is a working week of approximately 40 hours, and continuation classes, both physical and other, for about seven and a-half hours in the course of the week. I do not say that that is the ideal, and it operates only up to the age of 16, but it is an example of something which is working, which is accepted by the whole population and has been working for some time. It is an admirable precedent for the Minister. I wish him the greatest possible success in the administration of this Bill. I think that before he came in I said that I welcomed the speech which he delivered, because it is on the spirit in which the Bill is administered that its success will depend, and as I know he will administer it in the spirit in which he spoke to us to-day, I have the greatest confidence that it will be of permanent value to the youth of this country.

7.11 p.m.

Mr. A. Bevan

I do not propose to occupy the House for more than a moment or two, and I would not have spoken were it not for the direction of a number of the speeches that have been made. The House could not be discussing a more important subject than this, but I am bound to say that I think the whole subject, apart from one or two speeches like those of the hon. Member who has just sat down and the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), seems to have been debated in a vacuum. Everybody considers physical training to be quite removed from the economic and social background of those who are to be trained. That is an extraordinary situation. I was a member of an industry which offered me quite sufficient physical training and quite completely robbed me of any enthusiasm for any further physical exertion. I started in the pit when I was 13 years of age, and I do not remember any meal which I had for the following seven years that I did not fall asleep over. To suggest physical training to those engaged in the mining industry is utterly fantastic. What they desire, I agree, are other recreational facilities, but to suggest physical training to a man who for 7½ hours a day is performing herculean tasks of physical exertion is to talk utter rubbish.

The same thing is true of a large number of manual occupations. I do not consider that to be undesirable. As a matter of fact I believe that I will carry most hon. Members with me when I say that the best form of physical fitness is that which is a by-product of a man's occupation. There is nothing more obscene than a man who devotes many hours a day merely to the development of physical fitness. Such intemperateness and over-emphasis of one aspect of life does not produce good citizens, though it may produce a lot of trained athletes. In that case their athleticism is entirely at the expense of their mental development. The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Pilkington) spoke in high terms of what is happening in Germany, where they have organised training of youth. If that is his idea, I do not share it, because they are robots.

Mr. Pilkington

I want to make it clear that I was not holding that example out for admiration, but as a comparison.

Mr. Bevan

I understood that the hon. Member desired that we should undertake in this country propaganda in order that we may be able to create in the youth of Britain the same enthusiasm for physical fitness that exists in Germany. There at once I join issue with him. I do not desire to see any enthusiasm for physical recreation. I desire to see physical recreation indulged in as a normal aspect of everyday life. I do not want to see this unbounded enthusiasm, with people performing on a trapeze and so on. It is not desirable at all. One of the reasons we have to provide facilities for physical training in the modern State is because of modern sedentary occupations in place of the occupations which formerly gave man most of the physical wellbeing which he needed. Because of sedentary occupations there is now a deficiency or malformation in many cases of physical development which must be corrected by some self-conscious effort. I want to emphasise that my view, which I know is the view of a good many hon. Members here, is that we ought to develop normal persons. I therefore welcome those provision in the Bill which give increased facilities, because I think they are desirable, but I deprecate any attempt to organise nation-wide propaganda in order to stimulate the youth of the nation to make use of those facilities too self-consciously, and at the same time I deprecate the rise of competitions and clubs. I know that there I join issue with many hon. Members, but I would ask them to consider this point of view for a moment.

Here we are, in the Mother of Parliaments, in 1937, discussing a subject which many Members regard as being neglected, and yet it is a subject upon which more propaganda is conducted than any other. There is not a newspaper which does not devote pages to sport and recreation. You cannot ride in a tramcar or an omnibus, or go into a "pub" or a club, without finding authorities on sport and recreation there. They know all about form. Nothing is followed with such eagerness and avidity as the great sporting events of the nation. No other problem gets the attention which this one gets. It gets so much attention as to amount to a national debauch. Yet hon. Members say it is necessary for us to provide facilities for sport and recreation. Why is that? Precisely because sport and recreation are now regarded as the special prerogative of exceptional persons, and physical development is not regarded as something which should be the ordinary attribute of the ordinary man.

I remember that we constructed an open air swimming bath in my native town, Tredegar. It is a mining village high up in the valleys of South Wales. That is the sort of additional facility for physical training which I referred to when I said that even mining communities require some form of recreation in addition to the physical exercise they get from their occupation. When I was a boy those who wanted to learn to swim went to the mountain pools and tarns, which were also a great repository of dead dogs. Whereas in seaside swimming baths people swim from one mat to another, there we swam from a dead dog to a dead cat or sheep. We were swimming in a soup of decomposing carcases. Therefore, our local authority attached very great importance to the construction of an open-air swimming bath, and it is now a source of great pleasure to all of us on a summer's day—which infrequently occurs there—to see young children, in particular, lying out sunbathing and bathing in the swimming pool. The pool was opened by a display of swimming by a famous swimming team and afterwards we had a dinner to celebrate the event. At that dinner the captain of the swimming team said he hoped the time would arrive, in the near future, when a swimming team from Tredegar would be able to compete with the swimming pool from his native town. In reply I said that no such thing was going to happen if I could stop it, that I wanted no swimming teams, no display of athletics in the swimming bath; that I wanted the whole population to participate in swimming and sunbathing if they could be persuaded to do so, and that I knew of nothing which would so much deter a timid would-be swimmer from going into the water as watching the performances of a human seal.

The same thing is true of football. I am not an old man, but when I was a young man I remember that our mountain sides and fields were full of boys playing football. We did not organise competitions, but we played because we liked to play. We did not play for the reason that some people play golf, because it is good for them. I think the desire to play is a justification in itself for playing; there is no need to seek the justification of national well-being for playing. because your own well-being is a sufficient justification. The idea that you must borrow some justification for playing is one of the worst legacies of the Puritan revolution. We thought playing football was something which was worth while in itself, and we all played football, and as a result the juvenile population in that district were in such reasonable physical well-being as was possible, having regard to their lack of nutrition. Now we have football competitions and we have schoolboy leagues. We have more sport than ever we had. Every Saturday, all over Britain, thousands of miners are watching football matches—60,000 spectators all catching influenza looking at 30 fellows kicking a football about. That is their sport, and that is the sort of recreation which is going to be stimulated unless you are very careful.

You will need to be exceedingly careful if you put the youth of the country into the hands of experts. It does not require great experts to teach the ordinary rules of a game, and once the children and young men know the rules of a game for Heaven's sake leave them to their own devices. They will play the game in a better way. They will do all that is necessary. Once you have some expert training them, taking them into a gymnasium and telling them that all those peculiar and unnecessary evolutions are somehow good because it enables them to perform feats—that does not produce physical well-being, that merely produces mental and physical malformation. Therefore, I really do hope that more emphasis will be placed upon the development of facilities than upon national propaganda to get those facilities used.

The hon. Member for Widnes made one or two practical suggestions which he thought would lead to a universal adoption of physical training. He said it might be a good thing if all university undergraduates went through some physical drill in the morning, and I suppose he would extend that idea to the elementary schools. As a matter of fact, it is now very largely adopted in schools. One of the reasons why this House insists on physical training in the elementary schools is that there are no playing fields for the children. When I was a boy at school hundreds of us used to pour out into an asphalt yard, and it was like having a dance at a night club; we could not move and we just kept shuffling round; we could not play there at all. Children of the upper middle classes have large playing fields, and it is not necessary to give them drill instruction, because they can play in those fields. This idea that you must get all the boys and girls in rows, like chocolate soldiers, and make them go through evolutions, is a miserable substitute for giving them sufficient playgrounds in which they can play their own games in their own ways. As a propagandist for physical training the hon. Member is the worst I have ever heard.

We all know that nothing has given the British nation a greater distaste for good literature than having to parse and analyse the best known writers when at school. If Shakespeare is neglected, the schoolmasters of the last generation are largely responsible, because reading which should come to people in the form of a pleasure later on was imposed on them as a task when they were at school. The hon. Member wants to instil into the youth of the country the desirability of physical wellbeing, and to do that he would impose physical training upon them as an unpleasant task performed in an asphalt yard under the eye of an instructor. That is what will happen. I know that what I am going to say is sheer heresy and that I may call down on my head the wrath of many people, but I would abolish precise and formal physical train- ing in schools. I would provide some other means of recreation. To perform physical evolutions perfunctorily because some good may come from them later on gives young people a distaste for physical training.

Discursive though my remarks may have been, I hope they will have some effect upon the attitude of mind of the Minister, and that he will not try to set us all goose-stepping from John o'Groat's to Land's End, putting us, like robots, through evolutions which are entirely unnecessary in themselves and by no means pleasing to look at. I do not want to say anything about those who have specialised in particular sports. I know that an hon. Friend of mine on the Front Bench has been a distinguished runner and that the Noble Lord the Member for Peterborough (Lord Burghley) is another, and whilst I congratulate them upon their prowess I believe that, sometimes, they are the most dangerous members of the community, because nothing has a more unfortunate influence upon the man who wants to practise virtue than the spectacle of perfection. I hope that in applying the powers to be given under this Bill we shall take a normal and well-proportioned point of view, and try to prevent any lopsided development of our national health, and certainly not imitate the absurdities we see across the water.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. Vyvyan Adams

On a point of Order. Will my remarks be automatically interrupted at 7.30 by the Railway Bill?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid they will.

Mr. Adams

Shall I be able to resume my speech afterwards?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Adams

May I venture to remind the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who regretted the varying facilities for athletic pursuits in different classes, that it has not been unknown for the Welsh miner to transfer his herculean prowess to the football field; there his movements have been somewhat freer and more formidable than that dancing in a night club, which my hon. Friend described just now with such accuracy and with such graphic detail. I can also assure my hon. Friend, from my experience of Rugby football, that Welsh miners, or ex-Welsh miners, may be very uncomfortable antagonists. I am glad that he elicited from the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Pilkington) a disclaimer that he admired the mass training of German youth, a training which seems to convert them into easy, muscle-bound, uncritical targets for official propaganda. The hon. Member for Widnes mentioned a matter which I regretted very much, the result of the recent Boat Race. That result, as he said, may not have been due to bad luck, but I sincerely' hope, for my own part, that it will not be allowed to occur again. As a Cambridge Tory I am an unrepentent believer in long and unbroken traditions.

It being Half-past Seven of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.