HC Deb 07 April 1937 vol 322 cc258-84

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Question again proposed.

7.31 p.m.

Mr. V. Adams

That, Mr. Speaker, was an unusual experience for me. This no less unusual and interesting Debate was set in motion, by a delightful speech if I may so describe it, from the President of the Board of Education. At an early stage in that speech he regretted that no practical demonstration was possible, but I could not help wondering whether some of us might not come to his assistance. I was personally dashed by the remark made by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who said that he never believed that a stout fellow was capable of dealing with anything efficiently. I do not know from his speech whether I ought to regard myself as a deplorable example of physical deterioration. Although I have not reached the advanced age of 40, I have already acquired that senile con- vexity which is generally and exclusively associated with elder statesmen. This terrible physical consequence is due, I am sure, to that lack of adequate physical training and exercise from which I have been compelled to suffer for the last six years.

I would submit to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) that the vicarious valour of vociferous football crowds, which I myself have not infrequently helped to swell, does not by any means advance the purposes of this Bill. Football matches have provided all of us, I am sure, in our later years, with moments of great moral elevation, but they have done the generality of spectators not one atom of physical good. Indeed, among the spectators, or the audience, or the chorus, or whatever you call that human cordon which hedges in 20 or so players, those matches are responsible for colds and increased obesity. However, we shall go on watching these matches and attending the cinemas, to which the President referred in his speech, but we need something more, and that, I believe, will be supplied by the Bill.

I always object to unnecessary compulsion. I am glad that the experiment is to be tried of leaving out any element of compulsion from the Bill. It certainly is best to avoid it if possible. I hate the smell, taste, and sound of anything which smacks of totalitarianism. I hope—I do no more than hope, because I am by no means sure—that the Bill will work without compulsion being imported into it. We cannot tell how it will work until we have seen its provisions in operation, though I frankly doubt whether it will work smoothly upon a purely voluntary basis; but we must all hope, until the contrary is proved, that the necessary impulse is going to be supplied at schools where physical training forms part of the curriculum, and where right habits and healthy predilections may reasonably be expected to be formed.

I do not know whether the President of the Board of Education has ever been able to visit the centre in South London which is called the Peckham Health Centre. He might perhaps derive some interesting experiences from that Centre. It has been my privilege to visit it on one or two occasions. There can be found, perhaps, the model for the kind of centre which is to be set up under the Bill. Many activities are to be found surrounding a central swimming bath there, and they are very diversified. They are therapeutic, recreational, social and gymnastic, while the medical condition of members is cared for more particularly. Even on one occasion when I visited it, some of the members of the Peckham Health Centre had the odd experience and the mixed pleasure of hearing a debate between myself and Mr. John Strachey on the topic "Peace cannot come without Socialism." I merely make this reference in order to illustrate the diversity of interests to be found there. Primarily, the Centre concentrates upon health and physical development.

I believe that the members of the Peckham Health Centre enter it upon a family basis, and that they make some contributions, but I also believe that those contributions are upon a very small scale. I have not been able to make clear to myself, either from the terms of the Bill or from the speech of the Minister, exactly how the Government's scheme is to be financed, but perhaps his hon. Friend will be able to explain a little more explicitly later on, when he replies to the Debate. Perhaps it is worth while for the President of the Board of Education to make some study of the finances of the Peckham Health Centre, always remembering of course—

Mr. Stanley

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I happen to know a very great deal about the Peckham Health Centre. My wife had something to do with raising the money for it.

Mr. Adams

Then I will not charge the right hon. Gentleman with an ignorance from which he is free. I would like to say that if we are treating Peckham Health Centre as a model, we must remember that the general practice in the Bill must be a non-contributory one, and that we cannot expect a centre which is set up in a poor locality to receive contributions from the members who join it. We have not been told to-night so far, but perhaps we shall be enlightened later, precisely what is the proposed site of the college mentioned in Clause 7. That matter is much more important than might appear at first sight. I do not think it is unfair to ask where it is likely to be situated. The President told us that arrangements for this college are already far advanced. The success of our ancient educational institutions, which everybody admits, is in part due to beauty of environment. The leaders who are to instruct the rest of the community in this physical training and team recreation, have before them a great and inspiring task. I hope that the circumstances in which they are themselves trained will be no less beautiful and no less inspiring.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. G. A. Morrison

I am very glad that the proposals in this Measure are receiving the same generous welcome as did the preliminary statement which was discussed in this House some few months ago. The promotion of health and fitness depends upon many things, and many different agencies are at work. Nutrition is the basic element, but I will not discuss that further than to say that the operation of the Bill, when carried into law, will certainly show how fundamental it is. It depends also upon due attention to the health of the pre-school child. All who are interested must rejoice in the greatly increased interest now taken in the work of nursery schools. It depends upon housing, especially the housing of children in school. Some work still awaits the right hon. Gentleman in that connection because as recently as 31st December it was stated that 1,033 schools are still on the black list. It depends upon the safeguarding of young persons against too long hours of work, and tasks that are too severe for their age. It depends upon attention to diet, to bodily hygiene, the care of teeth and so on, and to a large extent on the adequate practice of physical exercises during school life.

Training of the body and mind was at one time a unity. At one time in the history of the world there were found very favourable conditions; I refer to ancient Greece. The right hon. Gentleman reminded us in his speech that that system was founded upon slavery, but he took care to point out that with the increasing amount of leisure which is to be available we are coming back to some extent to that position. The training of body and mind was once a unity, but they have fallen apart. Physical culture was neglected for long periods and it has been comparatively recently restored, with very great improvement in methods. Of recent years, physical exercises founded on scientific principles and upon accurate anatomical and physiological knowledge, and accurately observed and recorded practice, have had a most beneficial effect. I am strongly of opinion that physical training should be taught at all stages by well trained experts. It is a highly skilled business. I have made a point of consulting medical men on this subject at various times during the last few years and I have been impressed with the humility with which they have said that they do not understand all that is involved. I am not even sure that we do not want a new kind of expert, somebody with medical training and with special qualifications in physical training. I should like to suggest, to those whose business it is, that they encourage research and observation on the effects of physical training, not merely on bodily health but on the mind, the character and the personality, a department of knowledge in which the Americans have done and are doing remarkable work. Such work obviously requires to be done by highly skilled men and women.

In speaking on the White Paper I suggested one or two methods of propaganda. I am glad to see that committees are to be set up which will not merely have to provide facilities for physical exercise and recreation, but will have to direct public interest to the value of such training and recreation. Section 3 gives wide powers in this respect. I believe that after even a short time the worthwhile-ness of the efforts will be demonstrated and will be the best form of propaganda. The President of the Board of Education has told us that one reason for the drive for physical training taking place just now is the success of the greatly improved system of physical education in schools, and that when young people leave school they desire to continue it. Very often they find no facilities. That is exactly what the Bill will provide. One welcomes the promise of support for organisations which are not exclusively concerned with gymnastic work. One of the happy results of this will be an increase in the number, scope and usefulness of these organisations—multiple-purpose organisations, as I may call them.

I should like to say a word of caution on the subject of supervision. Something was said during the last Debate about the advisability of this physical exercise being carried on under skilled supervision, and some hint was given that that might be possible. I think it is desirable that there should be the possibility of providing something of that kind, in order to prevent harm from overstrain due to too violent or prolonged exertion. I referred a moment ago to the example of ancient Greece, and I would point out that in the 5th century B.C. that community had officials in charge of what we should call physical training, and one set of them had the duty of allocating special exercises to individuals; also that in their schools gymnastic training occupied as much time as all the other parts put together, and it was the only part that continued beyond the school age.

That leads me to suggest that attention might be directed to the provision of facilities, accommodation and apparatus for remedial work. That is a kind of thing that ought to be done, if it is done at all, before the young people get too old. I would also point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that gymnasia, whether for schools or for post-school work, ought to be equipped for this purpose, and the time tables of instructors should be so arranged as to permit it. I have said that I have a preference for the multiple-purpose organisations, but I should like to mention two very beneficial specialised organisations. One, which I have recently inquired about, is the "Keep Fit" movement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) spoke about the rapid increase of that movement in his part of the country, and I can tell him that the same thing is happening in the north-east of Scotland, where there are large classes and much enthusiasm. Another is the Youth Hostels Movement, which provides, for people of all ages and classes, the means of seeing the country by travelling, mostly on foot, by the chain of hostels which is so rapidly being provided. The success of that movement has been very remarkable, allowing as it does, at very modest cost, of delightful holidays in the open air. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will remember that, in the particular Utopia to which Samuel Butler gave the name of "Erewhon," the community he described had no sympathy with illness; a man could even be tried and punished for catching a common cold.

I do not know that the Parliamentary Secretary would wish to live to see that state of affairs in this country, but I hope that he and his chief will see at an early date, as the result of their efforts, a rapid and marked improvement in the physical and general well-being of all classes.

7.51 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Moore

It is somewhat difficult to take part in a Debate in which the Noble Lord the Member for Peterborough (Lord Burghley), who is such a distinguished and modest ornament of the athletic world, has spoken, because his knowledge is so great and his experience so wide that the rest of us must appear very much as amateurs by comparison; but I would like to reinforce one or two remarks that he made with regard to membership of the Athletic Union. I myself happen to be president of the Scottish National Cross Country Union, and I can say from personal knowledge, having taken part in many of their competitions, that a large proportion of the membership of the National Cross Country Union comes from the so-called working classes. I hope that my hon. Friends above the Gangway will note that fact and will be glad that one of their class—though I deprecate the use of that term, as in one way or another we are all workers—had the honour to win the national championship at Brussels the other day. That success was due to a stout heart and good shoe-leather, which are about all that is necessary in cross-country running, so that it is specially suitable for those who are not particularly well furnished with worldly goods.

I rather deprecate the appeal, moving though it was, that was made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies). Naturally, we were all very touched by the picture he painted of those children in his constituency who had to walk many miles to their school, which was ill equipped when they got there, but, at the same time, this is not a Bill that deals particularly with schools, but a Bill that deals with the general well-being and good health of the whole nation, and it would be a very poor argument to suggest that, because everything in the world was not right, therefore we should not seek to put part of it right. I hope that in due course the Minister will be able to extend his wide activities to the other part of the problem presented by the hon. and learned Member.

Incidentally, I would like to welcome the humanity, vision and imagination with which this Bill has been devised. I feel that it reflects a great deal of credit on the Department, and I thank the Parliamentary Secretary and his chief for it, and also for the enthusiasm and sympathy with which the Bill was presented to the House.

There is only one matter about which I am rather concerned, and that is the voluntary system. We all want the voluntary system tried out; we all want it to be a success, and I personally hope that it will be a success; but much will depend, as has been said already, upon the way in which it is handled, the type of propaganda that is used, and the way in which the Press put it before the people. All this will have to be very carefully done if we are to get the people seized with a natural enthusiasm to get fit and keep fit. The Press, of course, is a most potent element in this matter. but at the same time I think it is only fair, in defence of a more drastic system, a compulsory system, to try to answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). He referred to the disciplined and dragooned hordes of young men and youths in the dictatorship States. I am not here to defend the type of Government that they have in Germany, or Italy, or elsewhere, but merely want to give the House my own personal experience and knowledge.

I have gone over two or three of these so-called dragooned and disciplined labour camps in Germany, where there are an average of from 250 to 300 young men. I do not believe that anything had been done to prepare for my coming, because I happened to see marks of dirty gravy on the menu cards, and I do not imagine that they would have been there if it had been known that I was coming so I assume that what I saw was what was actually taking place every day. First of all I looked at the kitchens, and saw that the menus were good, the food was simple and plain, and not ostentatious or extravagant. I went into the day's curriculum, and found that the morning was devoted to the practice of various trades and crafts, all very valuable to these young people when they left the labour camp. I found that they comprised young men from the universities, artisans, clerks, some unemployed, some preparing for the professions—a mixed crowd if ever there was one. At midday they had a meal, and following that a compulsory hour of rest. The afternoon was spent in recreation, sports and games, and in the evening there were lectures on science, history, literature or whatever it might be. Another point is that most of them had bicycles, and they were encouraged to go on picnics, under proper supervision, and explore the beauties of the countryside. I am not in any way suggesting that that is a type of plan that we should adopt in this country; I do not think that we are at all suited for, or that we need, that type of development; but I do think it will be of tremendous importance how the Board of Education handle this voluntary side of the Bill so as to make it the success that we all desire it to be.

The Minister, in introducing the Bill, referred, very properly I think, to the difficulty of getting the children to build up their bodies and nourish their bodies by taking adequate supplies of the milk which was being provided by the local authorities and by the Board. That is an important problem, because we shall never get children fit to take physical training unless we first build up their bodies, and so the question is, how can children be got to take a sufficient quantity of milk? Some of them do not like it. If the Parliamentary Secretary will go into any of the milk bars that are now to be found in London, he will find that there are about 200 different ways of preparing milk, and not many of them are very difficult. There is milk with soda, which is a repulsive drink at any time; there is milk with various kinds of fruit juice, and, as an hon. Member near me suggests, there is possibly milk with stronger liquids mixed with it. There are many methods of making milk more palatable to children, and I suggest that, in those schools where milk is being used or offered, there might be devised, following the example of the milk bar, means of making it more palatable so that children would take it more readily. I would go further, and say that milk bars should be established by the Government in every Government factory—at Woolwich Arsenal, Chatham Dockyard, and other places of that kind; and I would even have clauses put into all Government contracts providing that where Government work is being carried out, or a new factory is being built for aircraft purposes or whatever it might be, milk bars should be established, so that the workmen may at any rate have as easy access to milk as to any other form of liquid refreshment.

I have said before in a similar Debate that I would like the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health to cooperate, so that panel doctors could prescribe milk in addition to, or instead of, medicine. I believe that would be one of the ways of enabling expectant mothers to have their constitution built up, and of giving the children a better chance of healthy bodies. These are methods which would cost money—a lot of money—but at the same time I think it would not be too heavy a premium to pay in order to ensure the health and well-being of our race in the future.

8 p.m.

Mr. Sexton

I agree with the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken that in this Bill the Government are setting out on a stupendous task. Not only does it concern the Board of Education, but many other Ministries will come into the picture. Before you can have physical fitness by exercise, you must have physical fitness by nutrition. The White Paper emphasised the fact that there are two essential elements in this physical fitness campaign. One is nutrition and the other is physical training. The health side concerns the Ministry of Health very largely, but it also concerns the Ministry of Labour, because nutrition depends upon food, and food depends upon wages, and if there are no wages to be had—there are thousands of people without wages to-day—it devolves upon the Ministry of Labour, with its unemployment assistance, or the Ministry of Health, with its public assistance scales, to find the wherewithal so that these people can have that food which will enable them to start out on the physical fitness campaign. The Ministry of Health is also concerned, with its child welfare and with its clinics, with the providing of free food where it is necessary. The Board of Education comes in with its school medical inspection and school feeding. The Board of Agriculture comes in, too, with the question of milk. I have had experience of teaching in schools, and I found that after a few weeks the novelty wore off, because the milk was presented in the same form as at the beginning. If the methods of the milk bars were introduced into the schools, the children would keep on taking it. The Board of Trade is also dragged in, because it has been emphasised in many speeches that the hours of labour of young persons have a great deal to do with their fitness before they are asked to undertake physical exercises. If the scheme of physical fitness is to attain full development, it means the very close co-ordination of all these Ministries.

The Bill talks about physical exercises. In the old days it went by the forbidding name of drill. When I was first a teacher we always called it school drill, and the name was associated with the barrack-yard and the loud-mouthed, and sometimes dirty-mouthed, sergeant-major. When I first taught drill every boy was supplied with a dummy rifle, and all the drill we had was marching up and down in fours, right turn and left turn. Then we went on to another cycle of school drill and a book was issued instructing us how to teach it, and it was called a model course. We dispensed with the dummy rifles, but largely kept to the Army drill. Then we passed on to the modern idea of drill, which is associated with real recreation, aiming not at massive, but at responsive muscles. Modern methods demand more apparatus than the old methods. We have football, cricket, tennis and net ball. All present day tendencies are to link up physical evercises with games. Not only is more apparatus needed, but more space, both indoors and outdoors. We are now providing large halls and gymnasia in schools where boys and girls can exercise in perfect freedom. I can remember taking drill in a class room among the desks where no movement was possible at all. Those days are passing away. Outside we want more playing fields and swimming pools. I have vivid recollections of trying to take physical exercise in a playground like a mountain, rising one in 10, with a knobbly surface. We want all that abolished. We must provide apparatus, we must provide the halls and the gymnasia, and we must provide outdoor playing fields and swimming pools.

When I turn to the Bill itself, I find that there are to be National Advisory Councils, one of whose functions is to examine the types of physical training. That is a wise and natural function. They have to survey the field and find a way to meet the needs of development. Then there are to be Grants Committees. I hope the procedure will not be too cumbrous, so as to nullify the best endeavours of the Advisory Councils and local committees. The happy thought has been introduced of taking staffs from the Board of Education and the Ministry of Health. There will thus be co-ordination of the educational and health sides of physical training. When we come to the training of teachers, the Bill envisages a National College. Perhaps it is rather late in the day to institute a National College, but I should like to pay my tribute to the facilities that have existed in the past. Even in my day, many years ago, the training colleges provided courses in physical exercises. The Training College is not only to train teachers and leaders but to investigate the problems of the physiology of physical training. I do not see that the psychology of physical training is mentioned, but there is the psychological side as well. One is the corollary of the other. By studying these problems of physiology and psychology we shall be prevented from a repetition of the mistakes of the past, when positively harmful exercises were done by children which were really marked out for adults. If the Training College does nothing better than find out the best system of physical training, it will have played its part. The White Paper refers to an interim before the Training College is established.

I asked a question not long ago about employing some of the certificated teachers who cannot get jobs during this interim by the initiation of intensive courses. With the true co-operation of all the social service Departments of the Government they could come to play a larger part in the promotion of the real health of the people, and real health very often means real happiness. Knowledge of the best system, not only on the physiological, but on the psychological side, will be a means of promoting the good health of the people. A previous speaker talked about the Victorian age as representing the survival of the fittest. Let us in this age fit the survivors of the present genera-lion so that they will be healthier and happier.

8.11 p.m.

Sir J. Withers

The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) raised one or two very important points as to the times when various young men and women could go in for physical training. He instanced people employed in particular trades, such as boys in coal mines working in shifts. It will be very difficult to work in the times of shifts with the times of physical exercise. I commend that to the Minister as a very serious point, and one which will have to be very carefully considered in giving instructions to local authorities. This physical training cannot, I think, apply to young children who are rickety and subject to malnutrition. Having regard to the numbers quoted by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), this matter also should be very carefully considered. My view is that the Government ought to institute a very careful inquiry. The matter involves some very large economic questions, but they will have to be solved. Another hon. Member said there ought not to be any compulsion, but I do not think compulsion will be needed. If there is proper propaganda, so that everyone knows of the existence of these facilities, the natural instinct of boys and girls to play will come into operation. I do not see why there should not be a happy mean between strenuous matches on one side and doing nothing on the other, but there ought to be a certain amount of propaganda so as to interest the children and others.

The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Pilkington), I suppose as a joke, suggested that Members for the Universities should be compelled to- take physical exercise daily. Speaking for Cambridge, as far as I can see, nearly every undergraduate takes quite enough exercise. It is not so bad as it was in my time, when the boys used to do too much rowing, and so on, but certainly nearly everyone does a certain amount, and, if he does not, he is looked upon with suspicion. The hon. Member suggested that Cambridge should act under the leadership of Oxford. Of course, we are very pleased to have been led by Oxford on a recent occasion, after leading them so often, and I hope they will adjust matters so that their undergraduates will take as much exercise as ours. Having made these few remarks, I support the Bill.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Westwood

I have followed this Debate from its opening with the keenest interest. It was opened by a speech from the Minister, and I think it would be true to say that, if the spirit of that speech is carried into the administrative work, this Bill, when placed upon the Statute Book, will be one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever passed by this House. I have tried to follow the arguments of some of those who have taken part in the Debate, but it has been with difficulty at times. I have listened to the arguments with reference to the teaching or giving of physical instruction in schools. Part of the Debate has been around the setting up of nursery schools, but I can find nothing in the Bill to justify our arguing about nursery schools or even the kind of physical instruction which is being given in our day schools at the present time. If I read the Bill aright, it is not a substitution for the work of the education authorities or the existing statutory bodies. It is a Bill which will set up the necessary administrative machinery for supplementing the duties that are imposed upon the existing statutory bodies.

Speaking as one who has had to deal with administration, I wish every success to the spirit that is contained within the Bill. There are some things to which I want to draw attention and in respect of which, I think, it might have been possible to improve even this apparently very good Bill. Already the national advisory bodies have got to work. As I have been fortunate enough to have the honour of being placed upon the Scottish body, I can say that we have already got down to work. The work under Clause 2 is going to be extremely difficult as far as Scotland is concerned. That Clause, which was dealt with by the Minister in introducing the Bill, points out that local committees are to be set up, and that will be an extremely difficult job in Scotland. Our problems are different from English problems. There is the problem of the scarcity of population, particularly in the Highlands, and very large areas have to be covered, and, what is equally important, the very large number of voluntary organisations which have been doing splendid work in the past will make it very difficult to set up these advisory bodies, which are to be of a workable size. Already splendid work has been done in the interests of the youth of Scotland by the many voluntary organisations, by rowing and boating clubs and by the mass of boys' clubs. It is all to the credit of the men and women who have given of their time and service at least to try to save some of the youth of Scotland. These voluntary organisations are entitled to full credit being paid to them by Members of the House taking part in the Debate. The great number of these voluntary organisations will make it very difficult to set up the local committees, who have, in turn, to advise the National Advisory Council as far as grants and the facilities to be provided for recreation and for physical instruction are concerned.

Clause 3 undoubtedly imposes a new charge upon local authorities. I wish that it had been possible in a Bill of this kind to provide some of the additional money required to make a success of schemes of this particular type. The Minister made special play of the advantages which the additional money provided by the Government for distribution through the new formula will provide for these local authorities. May I assure the Minister, and also the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is listening to this Debate, that some of the financial advantages which some of us thought were to accrue to the local authorities in Scotland have already been more than used up because of the increased cost of public assistance. I could name several authorities who, instead of bringing about a reduction in rates, are likely, because of the additional cost of public assistance, to be faced with an increase in rates, despite the additional sums of money provided for them under the new formula. I want to emphasise that as an administrator, apart altogether from being a Member of this House, I welcome the new powers contained in the Bill. I know the difficulties which have to be faced by the local authorities because a new charge is to be imposed upon them for which no financial provision is really being made in the financial arrangements of the Bill.

I welcome Clause 4 because it gives power to the local authorities to provide community centres which at present can only be provided by local authorities for municipal housing estates. I wish that the local authorities in Scotland would take full advantage of the powers contained in the Housing Act, 1925, enabling them to develop these community centres and thus improve the facilities for physical instruction and recreation. I am proud of the fact that the authority of which I have the honour to be a member has been a pioneer in work of this kind as far as provincial towns in Scotland are concerned. We have been pioneers in dealing with the overcrowding problem. We are trying to be pioneers in regard to the provision of community centres, and I suggest that there ought to be a working arrangement as far as this Bill is concerned between the Ministry of Health and the Department of Education, so that we can work to the fullest extent the provisions of the Housing Act along with the powers contained in the new Bill in order to provide these centres, not merely under the new municipal housing schemes but also for the general community. I also welcome the provision in the Bill which makes it possible to acquire land on easier terms, or at least in. a more speedy way than at present. It is one of the good things of the Bill, and, having sat on the Committee dealing with the problem of health, I can say that we made a definite recommendation which is now being carried out under this Bill. I am wondering whether it is just the first of the recommendations which are to be accepted, and whether all the others will be as willingly accepted by the Government as apparently this one has been. I will quote from the report of the Committee on the Scottish Health Services, page 147, paragraph 447, which deals with this problem of housing and recreation. It says: The housing schemes must be viewed in relation to well-conceived plans for the development of town and country, in which provision must be made for, among other things, open spaces, facilities for recreation, health and other public services. To make those facilities more easily acquirable by the local authorities, particularly where they have to acquire land. paragraph 451 said: We realise the pressing need of land for housing, but we consider the need of land for ether environmental services may be just as great. We see no reason why the housing code, which is simpler and more expeditious and yet fully protective, should not be made applicable generally to all environmental services. The adoption of this course would carry the added advantage of one code for a great variety of services. If I am reading Clause 5 of the Bill aright, that recommendation is really being given effect to. I wish it had been possible to strengthen that particular Clause. Why should the local authorities of Scotland or England, when they require land for the purpose of recreation and for enabling them to carry through to its fullest extent the advantages of the physical instruction which we can provide under this Bill, have to pay the extortionate prices for land that will be demanded from us even under the provisions of the Bill? You make the facilities easy for the acquirement of the land and you give us power to acquire, but we shall have to meet so many claims in connection with vested interest in land that we, I am afraid, shall be handicapped.

I can visualise an area that I have marked out for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions under this Bill. I have already been instrumental in getting plans prepared for a hall which is to be used as a community centre. It is to be said to the credit of the local authority concerned, not a Labour authority but one which sometimes seeks to accept wise Labour suggestions, that they are making arrangements to provide inside that hall spray baths, so that they will he part of the facilities in connection with this scheme provided for in the Bill. The hall is quite close to a large open space, on which we cannot build because there is no guarantee as far as mineral rights are concerned but which might well be used for the purpose envisaged in the Bill. Why should not my local authority, which is willing to purchase, be able to buy that land at its agricultural value? There would be no robbery as far as the owner of the land is concerned. It would make it more easy for the local authority to give effect to the spirit of the speech of the Minister of Education to-day.

While I welcome the powers contained in the Bill for the acquiring of land in a simpler and easier way than has been provided under the Borough Police Act and the various other powers given to local authorities in Scotland, I can see difficulties ahead of us because of the prices that will be demanded for land. I wish it had been possible to say in the Bill that whatever is the agricultural valuation placed on the land, on that price being paid, the land shall become available for the particular purposes envisaged in the Bill. By that means there would be greater possibilities of success so far as the schemes are concerned.

The main point of the Debate has been concentrated on the need for nutrition, particularly of the children in the schools. I agree that nutrition is absolutely necessary if we are to make a success as far as the purposes of the Bill are concerned, but it must be extended far beyond the school children. If I am right in my reading of the Bill, it is a supplementation of the existing powers of local authorities, which powers do not enable us to deal with the problem of nutrition as far as young persons between the ages of 14 and i8 or 14 and 25 years of age are concerned. There has been no more abused words in the English language than the words "nutrition" and "malnutrition." Perhaps I may be allowed to quote from a member of the Advisory Committee referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). Professor Cathcart, in a speeech which was reported in the "British Medical Journal," said: Again I emphasise the point that in this question of food the problem is frequently as much psychological as physiological. ' Better a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therein'. There is something to be said for that, although at the same time I want to say that if everybody was properly and well fed they would go on their way happier than they are at the present time. Professor Cathcart suggested that we ought not to trouble too much, those of us who are lucky enough to get the food that we can order and pay for, as to its nutrition value. He said that would settle itself. Eat all kind Nature doth bestow; It will amalgamate below If the mind says it shall be so. But if you once begin to doubt, The gastric juice will find it out. That is one of the most effective ways of dealing with the problem of nutrition. If you have the money to provide those good things that you desire they will settle for you whether they are good for your health or not.

I should like further to emphasise the fact that it would be wrong to give physical instruction or even to carry through these schemes of recreation unless we are prepared fully to consider the steps to be taken by the local authorities to deal with this matter. The Secretary of State for Scotland, following upon the action of the Minister of Health and the Minister for Education, must impress upon the local authorities to use the powers they have to avoid malnutrition through the underfeeding of children in schools. If the children are not properly nourished when they are in school you can go on with all your schemes of recreation and physical instruction, but you will never be able to get the full advantages of your schemes for the youth or the older people unless they have had the chance of real nourishment and feeding when they were attending school.

I have not been able to follow some of the arguments used in trying to make this too much of a school business. If this thing is to be a success it must be entirely clear of the school atmosphere. Not too much of the rigidity of the schools must be applied either in the teaching, the forms of recreation or the physical instruction to be given. Greater freedom will require to be applied even as far as the leaders are concerned and the instruction that they are to give. I believe it will be possible by a system of intensive training—we have not the trained people to deal with this problem at the present time—to give us the leaders that we require in connection with this physical instruction and these schemes of recreation, and who will make for success as far as the Bill is concerned. The important thing is that in any special and intensified training for a type of individual, we must, in the interests of the health of our children and in the interests of our youths, not overdo the physical instruction. There is always that danger. There must be the greatest freedom allowed provided this point is always kept in mind.

The essence of the success of the Bill is its voluntary nature, and the variety of the facilities to be provided. Its success will depend not on saying what must be done but what may be done, and the provision of facilities for these things being done. The success of the Bill would have been far greater and more speedy if all Ministers of the Crown had delivered speeches in the same spirit as the President of the Board this afternoon. If only the Home Secretary when dealing with the Factories Bill had spoken in the same spirit as the President of the Board of Education to-day; and also the Secretary for Mines, who still allows young boys to be engaged in the mines of the country. Time and again we have been promised that something should be done in that matter. The Minister of Labour still allows night baking, and allows young people to be engaged on night work. If all Ministers of the Crown had only spoken with the same voice and in the same spirit as the President of the Board of Education on other measures which have been brought before the House, the success of this Bill would have been even greater. You cannot get real success unless you take this Bill as part of a great scheme of social progress which is absolutely necessary in the interests of the health of our people. The Bill will make provision for opportunities for physical training and enable us more speedily to lay bare the amount of undernourishment which exists among huge sections of our people. It will thus make it possible for a still more effective step forward to be taken to improve the health and happiness of our people.

8.39 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Shakespeare)

My right hon. Friend has every reason to be gratified at the reception given to the Bill by Members of all parties in the House. Most hon. Members have dealt with it in a non-controversial manner, and therefore, I find it somewhat difficult to reply. I should like to thank the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) for his most refreshing and sensible speech. Being an Englishman I cannot answer his Scottish points, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will consider the suggestions the hon. Member has made. The Bill is a further example of a programme of measures of positive health which will be far more fruitful and far more economic than a whole series of measures designed to cure a disease after it has arisen. I have been interested while listening to the Debate in trying to sum up the various hobbies of hon. Members. I have not quite summed up the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), but I should imagine from his speech his lying in a hammock in the summer and in winter being a football fan.

Mr. Noel-Baker

What about gardening?

Mr. Shakespeare

There is nothing in the Bill which will prevent the right hon. Gentleman doing any one of those three things. In considering the question of health there is a psychological and a physiological aspect. No one can be healthy unless he has an interesting job and his mind is in the right state. On the physical side I do not believe you can have health unless you get the right nutrition and an adequate amount of physical recreation and physical training. Many hon. Members have referred to the question of nutrition, and no doubt that is a vital element in health. No one has raised it in a more refreshing way than the hon. Member who has just spoken. I agree entirely with his views. There is probably more nonsense talked about nutrition than about any single subject. That is why we have appointed this body of experts who I hope will educate the layman in the course of time. I do not want to say much about nutrition because the Government do not propose to deal with that important problem in a Bill designed to provide physical training and recreation, and it may be sufficient to say that the Government have formed the strongest advisory committee possible, and it has reported. In many respects that report shows how much more there is to do before we reach an optimum standard, but in many respects they congratulate the country on the road along which it is advancing and point with some pride to the progress already made. The Government naturally will give it all the attention which such a report deserves.

But it is just moonshine to conceive the people who might come under this Bill, that is to say, some 14,000,000 persons between the ages of 14 and 35, as being so enfeebled by lack of nourishment that they cannot stand up, let alone take any recreation. I only suggest that if you compare these 14,000,000 people and consider the wide range and variety of their diet, the richness and cheapness of their diet and their high purchasing power, the comparison is in favour of this country compared with any other country in Europe or in the world. It is true, of course, that if one takes extra exercise or recreation, one uses up more calories and needs extra nourishment, but I think no one would seriously suggest that the necessary expenditure of money to make good the calories is beyond the reach of the ordinary boy or girl. It is now a common practice in many voluntary organisations to provide the requi- site refreshment at cost price, and I am advised that by the expenditure of a penny the calories used up in two sessions of physical exercise can be made good. [An HON. MEMBER: What is the refreshment?"] Bread, cocoa, biscuits and so on.

I would like now to deal with one or two points raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley. He was questioning whether the Bill was rightly framed, and he was anxious that the extra facilities under the Bill should not go entirely to the clerical class. If his assumption that the voluntary associations in the past have favoured the clerical class is right, that is a point that needs watching. I am not sure whether the assumption is correct, but if it is, it is a justification for this Bill, for we wish to spread the net as wide as possible. When the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the question of nutrition, I think he rather confused two things—the assessment of the nutritional state and the means to be taken to overcome any deficiencies in the nutritional state. If he will read paragraph 74 of the last report, which he was reluctant to read, he will see clearly that my right hon. Friend pointed out that, although the present state of assessing nutrition is not absolutely foolproof, it is the best yet devised, and indeed the experts say that it is the best at present known. All I can do is to assure him that if research will find a better one—and I believe the League of Nations is trying to find a better one—we shall consider it with a view to adopting it. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman cannot blame us, for the present one is admitted by the experts to be the best that is known.

Mr. Lees-Smith

As a matter of fact, the whole purpose of the committee is to work out an alternative method of assessment of nutrition, and the method which the committee is working out is on entirely different lines from that which the Board of Education has adopted up to the present and which it suggests in the paragraph in question.

Mr. Shakespeare

The right hon. Gentleman's intervention illustrates his confusion of thought on this matter. The committee is set up to improve the diet of the people; but in assessing the nutri- tional state one has to adopt other methods, and the committee itself says that no better method is known than the method at present adopted by the Board of Education. That is clear in the report.

Mr. G. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman is magnifying it too much.

Mr. Shakespeare

Hon. Members can read it in the report.

Mr. Griffiths

I am reading it now.

Mr. Shakespeare

I will deal now with the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), who rather threw doubt on the committees referred to in Clause 2. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Captain Elliston), that these committees are vital to the whole scheme, for they will be able to co-ordinate all the arrangements with regard to physical education, and representatives of the local authorities will be on them. It will be possible for them to get a clear picture over large and small areas of the facilities at present available. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall also raised a point concerning Clause 3, Sub-section (3), which I think is a Committee point. The Clause is really a money clause, and is intended to enable the National Advisory Council to spend money on propaganda. I fancy the Clause is not drafted as well as it might be, but that can be dealt with in Committee.

The Noble Lord the Member for Peterborough (Lord Burghley) made an interesting speech on the need for co-operation and propaganda, and I think his speech justified the action which the Government are taking and showed the need for the matter to be dealt with on a national scale. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) raised a difficult point about county councils. I am advised that county councils have not been able in the past, and will not be able under this Bill, to provide swimming baths. There is a new power given in this Bill to enable a county council to contribute as much as it likes to a swimming bath built by one of the authorities within the county. If the hon. Gentleman presses, his point in Committee, we will give it very careful attention.

Mr. Ede

Do the remarks of the hon. Gentleman mean that a county council could contribute up to 100 per cent. of the cost of a swimming bath erected by another local authority or by a combination of local authorities?

Mr. Shakespeare

Yes, certainly. A swimming bath is usually a local affair, and that is why a county council has not had power to build one, but it has power to contribute as much as it thinks fit.

Mr. Kelly

Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that county councils have not the power to construct swimming baths? I believe that during the last two or three years the London County Council has constructed swimming baths.

Mr. Shakespeare

It is very difficult to make any statement on local government without making a large number of reservations. What I said is true, with the exception of the London County Council.

Mr. Ede

That is not really a county council.

Mr. Shakespeare

My hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) asked a question as to the site of the new national college that we have in mind. On that naturally we are asking for the advice of the new National Advisory Council that has been set up, and when we receive that advice we shall consider the question anew. It would be wrong for me to develop my own theories about that matter, since the President of the Board of Education is waiting for advice from the National Advisory Council. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. G. A. Morrison) referred to research. To my mind one of the justifications for the establishment of the national college is that for the first time in this country, or I believe in any country, we shall have facilities for research. It is amazing how little has been done in any country in research on this question. We have been going on rather happy-go-lucky methods. I am sure the national college will justify itself in that respect alone.

A number of hon. Members have rather indicated that the girls and boys or men and women they represent are probably so tired after the day's work that they are neither fit for nor willing to partake in any form of physical recreation. This is a very interesting subject and one could discuss it at some length, but I would only remark that the same thing applies to Members of Parliament. Those of us who have to come here early every morning, those who are engaged from day to day on Committee work, often feel so tired at the week-end that we are disinclined to take part in any recreation. On the other hand, those of us who are, as I think, wiser, forget that feeling and insist on some recreation or physical exercise at the week-ends and when we do so we find that the tired feeling goes. I think that boys and girls who work in factories find that the change of occupation and interest acts as a tonic, both mental and physical, however tired they may be, and the experience which we have had in connection with the "Keep Fit" movement bears out that view.

Mr. Tinker

What we are arguing is that a shortening of the working day or the working week would help people to take advantage of the opportunities of physical training which the Bill offers.

Mr. Shakespeare

That is possible, but I am not here as the representative of the Home Office and all my right hon. Friend said on that subject was that, taking the long view, there is a tendency for hours of work to be reduced and that that was a further justification for the Bill. But even at present, the long summer evenings which are available under the Daylight Saving Act provide such opportunities. I know that in my own constituency working boys and girls coming out of the factories, however tired they are, generally try to engage in some form of exercise such as swimming, gymnastics or the like, and I believe that if these facilities are provided in the manner proposed by the Bill, more and more boys and girls and young men and young women will make use of them.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the point about the three-shift period?

Mr. Shakespeare

That is a Home Office point and is not germane to the Bill. I wish to give one or two reasons why I think the Government have been wise in trying to satisfy the demand for these facilities. Some hon. Members seemed to suggest that we might be wasting our time in setting up this machinery and in providing this strong council and these committees. There seemed to be a doubt in their minds as to whether the people themselves would be wise enough to take advantage of the facilities. Let me then, in conclusion, state certain reasons which lead me to think that the Government are wise in tackling this question as they have done. In the first place, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer raised this question last October it has received surprising publicity in both the national and the provincial Press. The newspapers have employed health experts, physical training experts and sportsmen to advise the public on various methods, and I suggest as my first argument that the national and local Press, with their acute susceptibility to what the public wants, would not do so unless there was a real underlying demand for facilities of this sort.

The second argument which influences me is this: my right hon. Friend and I have been in touch with the leaders of practically all the voluntary associations in this country and they all make the same point. Whether it is the Y.M.C.A., the Girl Guides Association, the Boy Scouts Association, the Boys' Brigade, the Federation of Girls' Clubs, or whatever the organisation may be, they all say, "If only we had better premises, better equipment, better facilities, and, above all, better instructors and leaders, we could make a much greater success of our work." They say, "We try, within the limit of our powers, to provide recreation and physical training, but the supply of qualified instructors and leaders is so small that it is almost impossible, and if you can help us in that way you will do a lot to revivify our associations." Both the President of the Board of Education and I are convinced that the Bill will meet that demand.

Thirdly, as I have pointed out, wherever these facilities are provided, even in the industrial areas or the Special Areas, the youth of those areas try to take advantage of them. Many Lancashire Members have spoken to-day. There is a very strong "Keep-Fit" movement in Lancashire, where I believe there are 5,000 girls alone taking advantage of the opportunities for physical training which that movement provides. Many of them are unemployed and it is remarkable how regular they are in their attendance and what zest they put into this work. Perhaps that fact will encourage the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). To take another county which is quite different, we find the same thing happening in Devon. In the last year they have organised some go classes all over that county which are providing facilities for physical training.

Lastly, I may be allowed to give an illustration from my own constituency. We have in Norwich what is, I suppose, a unique example of a boys' club which has been provided by the police. The chief constable is chairman of the committee, which is composed of policemen who voluntarily give their leisure time to making the club a success. All the training is done by the police and the club covers every kind of activity, giving special attention to gymnastics, boxing and physical training, and there is also a band. There are some 11,000 boys enrolled as members of that club and on any night in the week you will find 600 or 700 boys taking advantage of the facilities which it offers. That is one concrete example and it is idle to argue that if similar facilities were provided in the industrial areas, similar use would not be made of them. I believe that this Bill will light such a candle as will not easily be put out. Although it is simple in conception and structure, it has the germs of great things within it. That is why it has been welcomed in all parts of the House. I, with my right hon. Friend, look forward to seeing this work proceed successfully and we know that we can rely upon the good will and cooperation of all sections of Members.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Can the hon. Member say if a special effort is being made to provide playing fields in industrial areas, and especially in South Wales?

Mr. Shakespeare

The Grants Committee have power to make grants to the National Playing Fields Association, and special powers are given to local authorities to acquire land.