HC Deb 20 April 1939 vol 346 cc616-41

The use of the camps provided under the provisions of this Act shall be confined to the following purposes only, that is to say:

  1. (a) camp schemes for pupils in State-aided schools in consultation with the appropriate education authorities;
  2. (b) schemes for the evacuation of the civil population undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Defence Act, 1939. —[Mr. R. Robinson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

8.42 p.m.

Mr. Roland Robinson

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

This manuscript new Clause is almost identical with an Amendment which I wished to move to Clause 1, but in accordance with the wishes of the Chair I am moving it in this form. My purpose is entirely friendly to the Bill and to the Government. Indeed, all I wish to do is to make the terms of the Bill as drafted agree with the definite statement set out in the explanatory memorandum that the camps will be available as school camps in peace-time and for the accommodation of persons moving from evacuation areas in the event of war.

Having read the explanatory memorandum and turned my attention to the Bill, I was rather surprised to find that that limitation did not appear in the Bill, and I was forced to the conclusion that it must have been left out by mistake since special attention had been called to the purposes of the camps in the explanatory memorandum. The question was raised on the Second Reading by myself and others, but when the Undersecretary of State for Scotland replied he did not specifically answer the point. If these camps are intended for other purposes I feel that the Under-Secretary would have felt compelled to tell the House that that was the case. We have had a number of assurances at Question Time and in Debate, and I feel that the wisest thing would be to make it perfectly clear that the camps are not to be competitive with the holiday industry in this country.

I am proposing this new Clause to make certain that adequate protection is given to stabilised industries against Government competition. We approve of the dual purpose for which the camps are being set up, but I would not approve of a camp being used in order to cater for families on holiday. I submit that the resorts of this country already offer adequate accommodation for whatever demands may be made by workers who are receiving holidays with pay. I have been for some years privileged to live in a health resort and I know from my experience that the houses in many towns are almost empty in May, June, part of July and most of September. If only we could get greater assistance from the Government, more especially from the Board of Education, to arrange for a spread-over of holidays, there would be no need to consider using these camps to cater for holidays. Questions have been raised with regard to the prices of accommodation, but, if it is possible to use the available accommodation throughout the summer months, the price factor will become much easier, because those who own those places will not be compelled to earn a year's livelihood in a few weeks. I appeal to the Government to make it clear that they will allow the normal expansion of a very healthy industry to try to meet the new conditions resulting from holidays with pay, and to give the industry a chance, when I feel certain it will justify itself.

It should be a matter of fundamental principle with Members on this side to see that Government competition does not enter into this industry. Government competition is directly contrary to the fundamental principles on which our party, and, through it, the Government, have acted hitherto. I am aware that subsidised Government competition would be welcomed and approved by hon. Members opposite, but I feel that it is our duty on this side to take a very firm stand against any Government competition in our industries. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us some reassurance. If possible, I should like to see a Clause inserted in the Bill, because, while the present Minister of Health and Parliamentary Secretary may be whole heartedly with us, they will not necessarily always be holding the same offices that they hold to-day, and I do not want to leave the door open to their successors, whoever they may be, to introduce this subsidised competition without again coming to the House of Commons and asking permission to do so for a specific purpose. There has been a certain amount of confusion, the President of the Board of Education, a member of the Cabinet, speaking in another place, has said that he would like to see these camps used for purposes far beyond those which are visualised in this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I take it that those cheers indicate the approval of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Their position, at least, is clear—

Mr. Mander

Does the hon. Member suggest that, in an absolutely united Government, a Minister speaking in another place is not expressing the views of the whole of His Majesty's Ministers?

Mr. Robinson

I feel certain that the hon. Member, as usual, will draw his own conclusions about everything the Government do, and, therefore, whatever I might say would make very little difference. As I was saying, there has been some confusion on this question, and I would like it set right. On behalf of those with whom I am associated, I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary that we are not wedded to the particular form of words in this Clause as we have drafted it. If he can help us to find some words which will meet the case and fit in with the terms of the Explanatory Memorandum, we shall be only too glad to co-operate with him.

8.50 p.m.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I hope the Government are going to adhere to their previous attitude and reject this Clause. On the Second Reading, the Minister of Health said he had by no means ruled out the idea of camps for adult holiday-makers, and he went on to say that the companies under the present Bill would be able to make arrangements for the use of these camps at holiday times, either by juvenile organisations or, indeed, by holiday-makers of any kind. I hope that the Government are not only going to allow the companies to use their camps for adult holiday-makers, but are going to make camps for adult holiday-makers. The hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) spoke of the health resort where he has the advantage of living, and said that during many months of the year the houses there are empty. Why are they empty? For two reasons—first, because our holidays are not staggered in accordance with a reasonable plan, a difficulty which I hope, by Government and other action, may soon be remedied; and, secondly, because many people cannot afford to pay the prices which are charged.

Mr. Robinson

I agree with the hon. Member in regard to the staggering of holidays, but the question of price, which is very important, is being met in two ways. In the first place, large numbers of people are for the first time having holidays with pay; and, secondly, if the holidays are staggered, it will, as I explained earlier, enable the accommodation to be spread over a longer period, so that the people who own these houses will not have to make their whole livelihood in one month of the year. That will make the price question very much easier.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I agree that a great number of people are going to have holidays with pay, but we do not know what the pay is going to be. We do not know whether it is going to be in the full normal rate of wages, and I understand there is no guarantee on that point; but, supposing that it is, how many of these people can afford to pay the rates charged by these holiday houses and other enterprises? On the Second Reading the hon. Member said that the commercial camps about the country—I believe he has some in his constituency—are used by the lower-paid workers, for whom they cater. I have examined the rates charged at almost all the commercial camps in the country, and they vary from about 35s. a week up to £3 10s. How is a man receiving 35s. a week for his labour to take his family away and pay charges like that? The thing is grotesque. We argue that the Government ought to start holiday camps of their own, on a non-profit making basis, where it would be possible to charge rates that these people can pay. Under the scheme as it stands, the Government are hoping that the charge to local education authorities for children will be somewhere about 13s. to 15s. a week. If that charge can be made for children, it ought to be possible to take adults at 21s., or a maximum of 25s. I believe that the Lambeth Borough Council, who are making a municipal camp of their own, hope to be able to carry their scheme through with such success that they will be able to provide holiday accommodation for adults for 25s. a week, with a correspondingly lower charge for children.

Mr. Robinson

Would the hon. Member help me by a further expression of his opinion? Would he allow everyone to go to these camps, or would he limit them to the lower-paid workers?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I think it is almost certain that the selection of those who want to use the camps will be made by those who use them—that, in other words, people who can afford a higher standard of luxury than is provided by the camps will go elsewhere. But if some people with a little more money want to go to these camps, I would not impose a means test, but would let them go, considering that it was a good democratic experiment which the Government were well justified in trying. I think the Committee are aware that a great number of new people will come into the scheme of holidays with pay. There are still 12,000,000 workers who do not get what should be the right of every Englishman—an annual holiday with pay while he is away. If anything like that scale of expansion is required in the holiday industry, there will be no question of competition with existing facilities, nor, I think, of competition in any way, because the prices charged are not prices which will be possible for these people. On these grounds it is desirable that the Government should carry through schemes for adult holiday camps, and I hope they will reject the Clause.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Loftus

The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has made an appeal for State-subsidised competition in establishing holiday camps which will take anyone and everyone. That appeals to hon. Members opposite, but, as I have nine holiday camps in my constituency, including one belonging to the Workers' Travel Association, I feel that the point of view of these holiday camps should be put before the Committee. The holiday camps feel that they are not having a fair deal. In the Explanatory Memorandum it was explained for what the camps were intended, but that explanation is not in accordance with the Bill.

Hon. Members should be clear what this holiday camp industry is, what it has set out to do, and what it has achieved. It was commenced some 30 years ago, and at present there are 85 camps, which take 35,000 to 40,000 people. Probably in the course of one year they take some 300,000 people for holidays during the summer months. That involves an expenditure of well over £2,000,000. It is a new industry, and it is constantly changing. The camps are constantly being improved by the addition of new comforts, new amenities, and new methods giving better types of building. There is this competition of private enterprise, all making for greater comfort, greater amenities and often reduced prices. I suggest that if you force against that industry State-aided competition, you will check that spirit of enterprise, that tremendous move to improve, that is going on to-day, and you may place everything under the rather deadening hand of the State.

These camps perform a very great national service. They provide a very healthy and happy holiday at very moderate prices. The hon. Member for Derby said that the prices were too high. I think the Workers' Travel Association camp in my constituency charges 35s. a week, absolutely inclusive, but of the other camps most of them, I think, charge 40s. a week in June and July, and in the height of the summer 45s. a week. That is absolutely inclusive of entertainments, dances, games and everything else, and in many cases it includes transport from the people's homes.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am not complaining that these people are not doing their best from their point of view; I have no doubt many of them are. But my point is that there are millions of workers who cannot now, and will not within any measurable time, be able to pay 35s. a week.

Mr. Loftus

If that is so, and if workers cannot pay 35s, a week for a fortnight's holiday, it is in the nature of a national reproach. The people who have developed these camps, who have given so many facilities for lower-paid people, will be ill-requited if they are told that subsidies are to be given from State money to their competitors, to destroy a business which has been a great national asset. A great misapprehension has arisen out of the invention of the words "seaside landlady." Whenever those words are mentioned they provoke a smile, much in the same way as the term "mother-in-law." That is one of the ancient jokes. But many seaside landladies are very excellent women. In Suffolk many of them are wives of working-class men and they earn extra money in that way.

As regards the wording of the proposed new Clause, I am not satisfied. I think it should clearly indicate that we propose that the Clause should apply only in peace time. In addition, for the two reasons set out in the Clause, I think these State-built camps could, and should, be used for other purposes. I suggest, for instance, that they should be used as training camps for the Army, Territorial Force or cadets. I would be quite ready to incorporate that in the Clause. Also I suggest that they should be used for the unemployed. They would be of great value for getting the unemployed from some desperately depressed area away with their families for a complete change of scene. That might have an astonishing tonic effect. The third thing for which I would like these State-subsidised camps to be used is for the benefit of any recognised and established welfare society, such as the Church Army or the Boy Scouts.

I protest against the idea put forward by the hon. Member for Derby, that these State-subsidised camps should take all and sundry, regardless of income, and enter into competition with these camps which have been built up by the enterprise and energy of the initiators. There is a pledge given in the Explanatory Memorandum, which is not carried out. There should be something embodied in the Bill putting some restriction on the use of these camps. Unless that is done, I hope my hon. Friend will carry this Clause to a Division.

9.4 p.m.

Mr. Bernays

I fully appreciate the anxieties in the minds of my hon. Friends the Members for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) and Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson). They represent two great holiday localities, and they are naturally anxious that the interests of their constituents should not be prejudiced. I will give this assurance, that, of course, the Government have no desire or intention whatever of subsidising competition with the holiday industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool said, "Give the holiday industry a chance." He will agree that it is receiving a very substantial chance, from which we hope that it will have a great fillip, through the Holidays with Pay Act, which we hope will come into operation this summer. But I would ask him to direct his mind to this consideration. If his Amendment were carried it might well be that we should find ourselves debarred in certain instances by a statutory prohibition from the use of these camps.

We do not yet know the extent to which the education authorities will make use of these camps. There may be hesitation or delays in the initial stages, and if the Amendment were carried and the applications from the education authorities were perhaps insufficient, then the camps for the use of which there had been no application from the education authorities would of necessity stand empty because of the statutory prohibition contained in the Amendment. I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree that it really is not common sense that, while there were on the company's books applications of which we should all approve, there should be some statutory bar against admission to these camps. There is the period of the school holidays to be considered. The practice differs among some education authorities, but the majority of them do not make provision for holiday camps in times of holidays.

Therefore, if the Amendment were carried, there might well be a blank period during which these camps were not used. That would be a disadvantage from the point of view of the national finances of these camps, for we look to long periods of use in order to reduce the overhead charges. For instance, the overhead charges for a kitchen stove, obviously, would be proportionately less if a camp were used for 40 weeks instead of for 20 weeks. In any case, I think that my hon. Friends will agree that it is not really sufficient to say that a boy shall be able to use these camps interminably as a member of a State school, but that if he wants to go there as a member of a troop of Boy Scouts he shall be debarred from doing so by a statutory enactment. That is what would happen if my hon. Friend's Amendment were carried.

Mr. Loftus

We should be only too willing to accept Amendments increasing the use of these camps by the Boy Scouts, the Church Army or any kind of national welfare association, and by the unemployed.

Mr. Bernays

Though I have no doubt that my hon. Friend is very sincere in his desire, that desire is not contained in the Clause.

Mr. Robinson

I made the point that we were not wedded to the particular set of words. I appreciate my hon. Friend's meeting of our case as a result of special pleading, and we shall be most willing to talk to him in order to obtain a more general Clause if necessary. Perhaps on the Report stage we can meet the points which he has made.

Mr. Bernays

I really think that it is not possible to devise suitable words because really we differ on something more important than that. My hon. Friends want to limit the use of these camps and to lay down a statutory limitation. A troop of Boy Scouts, whom, I am sure, my hon. Friends would be most anxious to assist, if they applied for the use of one of these camps would find, under this proposed new Clause, a statutory limitation preventing them from using the camp. I fully agree with what my hon. Friends have said with regard to the fact that these camps ought to be available only for those who really need them. There are two safeguards against abuse and against these camps seriously competing with the holiday resorts. These camps are, after all, likely to be of a pretty rough-and-ready character. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If we were offered a fortnight in one of these camps or a fortnight at Blackpool, I believe that most of us would choose Blackpool—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—or, if you like, some other resort. These camps cannot be said to compete in amenities either with the ordinary boarding houses or the great commercial holiday camps, which are of a far more elaborate character.

There is the second safeguard that it will always be open to the companies to refuse an application for a camp to any organisation that in their opinion can pay the full economic rate. It is always possible to raise these matters in the House on the Estimates or by questions to my right hon. Friend. If the House votes a substantial sum of money, hon. Members can always claim an investigation into how the money is spent. But I do not really think that this Bill will adversely affect the holiday resorts. They will cater for a section of the community who, as Sir Ronald Davison pointed out in a recent article in the "Times," will not be able to pay the ordinary holiday rates in operation at the commercial camps or the boarding houses. I would invite the consideration of my hon. Friends to the fact that these camps will popularise the use of fresh air and holiday resorts, and that boys will learn at an early age how pleasant it is to get into the country. They will acquire a holiday habit so that, when they reach years of discretion and are earning wages or salaries, they will avail themselves of the opportunity of spending holidays at Blackpool and Lowestoft, and other resorts.

In this connection it is not inappropriate to use the analogy of the provision of milk in schools. Boys and girls are acquiring a taste for milk, and although they receive milk at cheap rates in the schools, when they go out into the world and into the factories an increasing number of men and women will in fact drink milk, although they will have to pay the ordinary rates for it. I argue from this that, by encouraging holidays and giving opportunities to new sections of the community to enjoy holiday camps, we shall encourage the holiday habit among them when they grow up. I hope that I have convinced hon. Members that there is nothing in the Bill which will adversely affect holiday resorts.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Creech Jones

I am a little surprised at the suggestion of the hon. Member that these are to be rough-and-ready camps. It has been represented to us that they will be composed of permanent buildings and will have all the amenities and opportunities for recreation and that they could be readily transformed, in the case of evacuation, for a much larger population. They must, therefore, be supplied with all the domestic and social needs on which good health and a comfortable life depend.

Mr. Bernays

I do not want the hon. Member to misunderstand me. When I used the words "rough-and-ready," I merely meant that they would not be furnished like boarding houses in places like Blackpool and other holiday resorts.

Mr. Creech Jones

The hon. Member also made the further point that so far as family holidays are concerned the camp would be available only during the peak period of the holiday season or in the eventuality of the camps not getting sufficient bookings from schools and other institutions for which they are intended. I should like to urge that experimental camps should be created for family holidays. I am very much opposed to the proposal which is now put forward. I do not think that camps which are of a dormitory type for the use of school children can be readily transformed for family holiday use. Therefore, I hope that the company which will be formed will construct a number of camps for the use of those persons who are getting holidays with pay for the first time. I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), who suggested that it was a reprehensible thing that the dead hand of the State should come into this business. It seemed to me a wonderful thing that the dead hand of the State can work such havoc with the business which he represents.

Mr. Loftus

I said that at the present time there is an extraordinary boom going on in these camps and that if the State came in and subsidised camps—I do not think I used the words "the dead hand of the State"—it would have a deadening effect on this movement.

Mr. Creech Jones

The fear of the hon. Member is that State competition would have the effect of killing the industry rather than of stimulating it, by providing a more reasonable type of holiday than is provided at the present time. The hon. Member referred to the fact that the association with which I am acquainted is able to provide family holidays during part of the year at 35s. per week. While during certain parts of the year that may be an economic price, all experience indicates clearly that it is impossible to get a price lower than 35s. and, therefore, a scheme such as this is welcome because it will be possible to bring holidays within the reach of the lower strata of the public who are unable, owing to their limited incomes, to get holidays at the present time. Therefore as one who is interested in the creation of popular holidays I welcome most emphatically some real effort by the State to create those ordinary facilities which can only be provided by such a scheme as this. There are millions of working people on the lower rung of income who are getting holidays with pay for the first time, and if a few experimental camps could be created it would give that class of persons an opportunity of enjoying a holiday which otherwise would be completely barred to them. Such camps would not necessarily compete with existing camps and holiday seaside resorts.

There is a further consideration which should be borne in mind. The more you can get people to take holidays the more you stimulate the holiday habit, and you go on widening the demand for holiday facilities. It is a short-sighted argument to suggest that, because the State is coming in with a special type of provision in order to meet the needs of a class of people who are at present debarred from holidays, you are therefore going to prejudice the business of boarding houses and other camps. So far as seaside resorts are concerned this scheme attempts to create a completely different type of holidays, a type of holidays which is very much in demand because of its healthfulness and because it creates a social habit and a social method of enjoyment which the ordinary seaside resort does not always provide, certainly not so far as the ordinary boarding house is concerned which has to be used by the poorer type of worker. Therefore, not only on the ground that you are creating cheap facilities but because you are creating social and healthful facilities, I suggest that such an arrangement as this should have the support of the Committee.

I put this point of view as one who, in his own personal arrangements, if the arguments of the Mover of the Amendment were sound, would be adversely affected by the Bill. But it is not because one is meeting social needs that I hope the Amendment will be resisted and that this kind of restriction will not be imposed. There are other arguments that I should like to use. I am anxious to see an extension of the holiday industry, and I believe these camps will have an enormously stimulating effect, both in regard to the seaside resorts and the existing holiday camps. Therefore, I hope the Minister will go a little further than he has announced, and that he will deliberately encourage the companies that are being created themselves to embark on the experiment of camps to provide family holidays, and that they will not be just crude, rough-and-ready affairs, but will provide all the real holiday amenities which even the lowest paid workers are entitled to enjoy, that they will not be just school camps used in the peak season, but camps deliberately created for this particular purpose. I hope the Committee will resist the Amendment.

9.26 p.m.

Mr. Spens

In my Division C have a stretch of many miles of shore in the South of England. Along that shore we have holiday camps of every sort and kind, but they divide themselves into two main types—those confined entirely to adults and those confined entirely to children during their holidays. The problems that arise for the people who own and manage the camps under the Bill are, in my view, quite separate and different. As regards the children's holiday camps, I am quite satisfied that, with the number of new camps that are proposed under the Bill, if they were used solely for children, there are so far more children who could be given camp holidays than there would be camps, that no sort of competition whatever would arise from the use of these camps for children during the holidays. As far as there is any suggestion that the Bill is going to do any injury to those who own and manage children's holiday camps at present, I cannot bring myself to believe it. On the other hand, I think the position of those who own and run holiday camps simply for adults is quite different if the intention of the Bill is that these camps that are being erected are, or may be used, for adults. The camps for adults which at present exist have involved the expenditure of a very great deal of capital. Every owner of camps certainly in my area, makes them as attractive as he possibly can to his clients On the South Coast we get people from all over the kingdom, from the middle of April to the middle of October. The owners have spent a very great deal of money in advertising, and so forth. Their price varies at different seasons from 35s. up to £2 10s. a week, or something of that sort.

What is going to happen if hon. Members opposite desire that these camps should be used for adults? First of all, they are going to deprive immense numbers of children of their use. It is suggested that they should be used for adults because certain sections of the working classes who cannot afford to pay the 35s. or 45s. will be able to go to these camps. Do hon. Members really imagine that the boards of management of these camps are going to run them under the Bill as semi-charitable institutions? Of course they are not. They are going to charge the highest prices they can get, and the Government are going to try to get back the money they have spent on them. The idea that the boards of management will run the camps not in competition with the prices of the seaside camps is wholly misconceived. If the camps are to be used for adults at all/they will come into direct competition with existing seaside camps, a movement which has grown in the last 30 years, and has done immense good to innumerable sections of our population. It is a movement that we want to encourage, and not to discourage. By urging that these camps should be used for adults, you are not only depriving children of the benefits that they ought to get out of them, but you are discouraging those at present in the seaside camp movement from spending another penny in producing other camps.

At the moment, owing to the comparatively small number of camps for which the Bill provides, the fears of existing owners are exaggerated, but that is not the point. Hon. Members opposite complain that this is a small Measure and ask how many more camps are to be produced in the years to come. They look on this as the beginning of a great Government subsidised camp movement. That is why the interests of those who have put millions of money into the holiday camp movement ought to be protected now. The fears of these people, if the movement never went any further than what is contained in the Bill, would not be realised, but if, as I believe with hon. Members opposite, this is only a start, and we shall see camps all over the country to a very much larger extent than those authorised by the Bill, if you want private industry to go on in competition with a Government subsidised movement, you ought to protect private industry and encourage it to go on with the good work it is doing. You can do that with benefit to the children by restricting the use of the camps to children. It is inaccurate to say that they are used only for children during certain weeks in the summer. My experience is that they are used from the moment they are opened until the moment they are closed, in October, and there is no difficulty in getting school after school to go to them. If you only confined the use of the camps to children during the months they are available, you would be doing a very good work for the children and you would be encouraging private owners to go along side by side with the State subsidised enterprise and, I believe, they would then go on with their work. But if you pass the Bill in the form in which it is, in view of the prophecies of the party opposite, which I share, I believe you will immediately close down all further private enterprise in the movement. I beg the Under-Secretary to put in something to the effect of this new Clause.

9.35 p.m.

Mr. G. Griffiths

I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). The hon. and learned Member waxed wrath about the subsidy for these camps, but I have never seen him froth at the mouth when it was a question of a subsidy for the farmers. When the tramp shipping subsidy was debated a few years ago, he went into the Division Lobby in favour of it. I would like to give him a little of my experience about this holiday business. I worked for 43 years and never had a half-day's holiday with pay until I came to the House, and when I got my holidays with pay, I enjoyed them. I want to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). We are talking about holidays with pay—

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)

I must correct the hon. Member. We are talking about the use of the camps.

Mr. Griffiths

I quite agree, Colonel Clifton Brown, and if you had let me alone, I should have been in the camp in half a minute. I do not think the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Robinson) is so much enamoured of these camps around Blackpool. He is more disturbed and perplexed about the boarding-house keepers, and they are the people for whom he speaks all the time. He wishes that the camps around Blackpool were wiped out altogether.

Mr. Robinson

May I point out that the hon. Member is not entitled to speak for me? I was speaking for the whole of the holiday industry.

Mr. Griffiths

If the hon. Member was speaking for the whole of the holiday industry, he did not speak very clearly. Although hundreds of thousands of people are receiving holidays with pay at the present time, the payment which they get for holidays is not sufficient to take a man, his wife and family to a holiday camp at 35s. for each. Take a miner, his wife and three youngsters—70s. a week for him and his wife. Let us consider this matter of going away for holidays from the standpoint of the miners. Under the Yorkshire miners' holiday agreement, at the present time, if a chap is late he is fined half-a-crown. It is taken off his £3. Last year some of our chaps had only three days' holiday, and the pay was 30s., although some of them, when they went to draw their holiday pay, received only 17s. 6d., because they were fined 12s. 6d. for getting to work late at different times. Some of them, as a result of half-a-crown fines, lost anything up to 22s. 6d. How are such people to be able to go to the camps belonging to the hon. and learned Member for Ashford? How are they to go to the camps at Lowestoft? They have not enough money even to pay the railway fare.

Mr. Spens

I have been looking at these camps, and I assure the hon. Member that people come in large numbers even from his county.

Mr. Griffiths

They do go, but they are the deputies and managers and under-managers—the men who have regular wages. I am pleased in a sense that the Parliamentary Secretary has stood up to the two hon. Members. It took him a good long while before he told them straight that he was not prepared to accept this new Clause. If they press the matter to a Division, I hope that they will be the tellers, and that there will be nobody to vote with them.

9.40 p.m.

Mr. David Adams

The hon. Members who have put down this new Clause seem entirely to have ignored the purpose for which the Camps Bill was introduced by the Government. That purpose was the general advancement and improvement of the community, in addition to evacuation in time of war. Certainly, in the course of time, with changes of government, the camps will be used for any purpose which the public may desire. Hon. Members naturally have in mind holidays with pay. To have holidays with pay and not to make sufficient provision to enable families or individuals to go away on holiday, would be a sheer absurdity. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary has made it clear that by this subsidised scheme families and individuals will be able to take advantage of these camp holidays. The lower-paid section of the community is quite incapable, without financial assistance, of having the holidays which have been placed within their grasp. There are many hon. Members who have subscribed to institutions the express objects of which are to enable the lower-paid section of the community occasionally to enjoy such holidays.

It seems remarkable that there should be hon. Members standing up for what is a purely speculative enterprise and requesting the Government to take steps to protect the interests of that enterprise. Here we have an admission that the private concerns have been established for private profit; the more successful they are, the greater the profit earned; and I am certain that it is only an incidental part of the business of the private camps to provide holiday accommodation for the masses of the country. If the Government camps are highly successful, as in course of time they are bound to be, that will engender the holiday spirit throughout the whole community, and I can see nothing but good coming to the private camp movement as a result of the expansion of the Government proposals. Failing these proposals, and without the expansion of them, the holiday-with-pay movement, and indeed the holiday-without-pay movement, would come to an end. The hon. Members who have put down this new Clause certainly have been extremely short sighted. The new Clause provides that the camp scheme should be restricted to pupils in State-aided schools, in consultation with the appropriate education authorities. I say quite frankly that, as far as the County of Durham is concerned—and I have it on the authority of the chairman of the county council— unless there is additional State aid to that which is provided, only a small number of the school-children in the County of Durham will be able to take advantage of the provision of these new camp schools While the schemes for the evacuation of the civilian population to be undertaken in harmony with the provisions of the Civil Defence Act will no doubt function, it is a certainty that even that will be jibbed at by many of the poorer local authorities, which thereby will have additional burdens placed upon both rent and rates. I think we may justly ask—and no doubt the Government will see to it that their supporters vote in the proper way—that this Amendment should be rejected, in the interests of the persons for whom it has been moved, but more in the interests of the general body of citizens of this country.

9.46 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

I also was interested in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). I do not think I have ever heard a speech which was so contradictory in itself. He told us that we were all mistaken if we thought that these boards would let out the camps at reduced rates and that they would want to charge the highest rates, and then he went on to tell us that these camps, because of the fact that they were subsidised by the Government, would be in serious competition with the ordinary camps. He can square that as he likes, but it makes no impression on this side of the House. There was, however, one point on which I was in complete agreement with the hon. and learned Member, and that was when he said that the Parliamentary Secretary was talking rubbish. I want to direct attention to a situation that already exists and to bring home to the hon. Members for Blackpool (Mr. Robinson), and Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), an understanding of the fact that these camps exist. If those hon. Members want to see a really well conducted, well set out, well organised camp on one of the most beautiful sites that this country can provide, let them go to bonnie Scotland, and there, on the Isle of Bute, they will see the Co-operative camp, set on the top of the hills, a camp that has been run for a large number of years, a camp that is crowded all the summer season. But three or four years ago a community centre in Scotland opened another camp, about two minutes away from the Co-operative camp, and every season since, week after week, that holiday camp has been crowded with unemployed families. But does the fact that these unemployed families are there mean that they are in competition with the other camp? Are the Co-operatives going to raise an outcry as a consequence? No.

If hon. Members will take their minds back to the report submitted last year by the Statutory Committee on Unemployment, they will find the committee stating that they cannot increase benefits because wages are too low. If the unemployed are entitled to a holiday camp financed by a community centre, and they are entitled to a holiday, why should not these poorer paid workers, whose wages are at the same level as the rates of unemployment pay, be provided with a holiday camp? Why should not we have these camps situated in different parts of the country? I do not want to develop the argument which was developed by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), to the effect that the more you extend the holiday spirit and the more you encourage people to go to these camps, the wider the area of appeal for those who have private camps; but let any hon. Member of this House go up to the Isle of Bute and see these two camps, practically bordering on each other, with no such thing as competition. It is an entirely new kind of people there who are getting holidays and who have never experienced a holiday like it before. It is one of the most desirable developments that could be imagined.

There are so many millions of workers in this country who cannot afford a holiday when it comes in the summer. Even if they get a holiday with pay, it is often impossible for them to save up during the year, what with their heavy rents and instalments on furniture, and there are so many of them who can scarcely find the money with which to buy food, let alone save up for a holiday. Therefore, I cannot understand why hon. Members can take up such an attitude and see the question of camps from only the most narrow viewpoint of the immediate profit of a particular camp owner. The Minister tried to explain away the term "rough and ready," but he knows that he was talking about the children of the working class and that in his mind was the thought of rough and ready, that anything is good enough for them. He would never have used that term if he had been talking about public schools and public school boys. That is what we are up against with so many of the hon. Members opposite.

The hon. Member for Lowestoft was absolutely astounded when he was told that there were poor people in this country who could not afford a holiday. There are millions of them in this country who cannot afford the 35s., 40s. or 45s. a week to go to these camps. When we are talking about these matters and suggesting organisations that ought to be considered, why do we always hear about the Boy Scouts and never about the Young Communist League? When we are considering these camps, I suggest that we should make it clear that they should be open, not only to the Boy Scouts and the Boys Brigade, but also to the Young Communist League, and I guarantee that if you got the members of the Young Communist League in these camps, it would develop them educationally and in every other way.

9.53 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

I have been amazed, in listening to the arguments put forward in favour of this proposed new Clause, to find that the vested interests of the seaside proprietors have played such an important part in the Debate, because I think that in the long run even those interests cannot but see that the development of these camps, if it should come about on the lines suggested, would be to their advantage. But what surprises me more than that is that they should have lost the opportunity some little time ago, when a Debate was taking place in a full House, of putting that same point. If the arguments that have been used by the hon. and learned member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), as well as by the hon. Members for Blackpool (Mr. Robinson) and Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), had anything in them at all, those arguments could have been used with much greater force in dealing with the question of the Territorial Army and the Territorial camps. I never heard a word, when it was proposed to double the number of Territorials and, I presume, to increase the camping facilities for them, to the effect that it was unfair to the camps that had been provided by the seaside private authorities. Surely it will, for those people are going, with pay, for a fortnight's training in the summer. If objections are to be raised to the workers, who cannot afford to visit one of the other types of camps, going to a State camp, there should have been some objection from the same vested interest when it was proposed to increase the holidays of those workers who will be enjoying holidays in the Territorial camps. Surely, that is reasonable. We shall need far more camps than have been suggested or even thought of.

The Deputy-Chairman

That point is not in order on this new Clause, which is concerned not with the number of camps but with the use of the proposed camps.

Mr. Tomlinson

The argument is that the Clause cannot possibly apply in regard to the camps that have been provided, and, therefore, on your Ruling, I suggest that the Clause is out of order. It seems to me that the number of school children who will be waiting to accept these facilities and the number of local educational authorities who will be waiting with open arms to utilise these: camps when they are ready, will make it unnecessary to consider the question of using them for workpeople. Then why the fear that has been expressed? It is fear born of the idea that the camps, which are ostensibly being built because of the fact that we have been brought face to face with the crisis and the possibility of the evacuation of school children, have become a necessity, and in order to save our face we have to devise means of using them through the whole year, even if there is no crisis and no question of evacuation. I charge the Minister with putting that point second, and not first. The need for the school camp has been there all the time, and now in order to save our face and to make an impression in an emergency we are proposing to utilise these camps. Then the vested interests come along and say, at the last minute, that if we are to have a war, let it come, but do not let it interfere with profits; let us have a Clause in this Bill to restrict the camps to children, in order to prevent profits from being interfered with.

9.58 p.m.

Sir H. Morris-Jones

I support the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) on this Clause, and I do not apologise for doing so. One would think from the arguments used by hon. Members opposite that it is some sort of crime or misdemeanour to speak for one's constituency. I do not take that view. That is why we are here, provided that a constituency's interest does not clash with the national interests. My hon. Friends who have spoken in favour of the Clause have put a point of view which is very seriously felt in seaside resorts. Camps are growing up rapidly. There is a great deal of commercial competition going on. Some of the camps are defacing the countryside and the sea coast. Now, on the top of that, we are told that the State is coming in to add to the number.

I have said all along that we cannot oppose this Bill in the national interest. The Preamble states that the Bill has two purposes, to provide school camps in peace-time and refugee camps in time of war. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary was not able to see his way to give some encouragement and hope to us, particularly as he agreed with the point of view of the hon. Member for Blackpool. If the Bill is intended to be what the Preamble represents it to be, there can be no objection to circumscribing the purposes of the Bill to the objects which the Preamble sets out. I hope the Govern- ment will see their way to accept the Clause. We are a small country and there is compulsory acquisition of land going on in all directions—land for army camps, holiday camps and so on—

The Deputy-Chairman

I am afraid the hon. Member is out of order. We are discussing on this new Clause the use of the camps, and not the acquisition of land.

Sir H. Morris-Jones

With respect, my argument was that we were adding another factor to what is already in existence, and I thought that I might be in order in making the suggestion that we do not want any further provision of this sort if we can. avoid it.

The Deputy-Chairman

The question of whether we should or should not have more camps is not in order on this Clause.

Sir H. Morris-Jones

In the constituency which I represent we should strongly object to the State coming into socialised competition with the system of camps which already exist, and to add to the multiplicity of camps which are becoming a growing evil in many directions.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Poole

It was perhaps an unfortunate use of language by the Parliamentary Secretary to speak of rough-and-ready camps, but I hope that if anyone else speaks for the Government he will take steps to clear up the unfortunate phrases that were used. It will be very regrettable if it goes out to the public Press that these camps have been described by the Parliamentary Secretary as rough-and-ready. The statement was also made that these camps will not be so good as lodging houses. I do not know whether the Minister understands the meaning of the term "lodging houses" which will be used in many parts of the country. I am wondering whether he realises that parents will not be prepared to let their children be evacuated unless they are assured that they are going to places where it is desirable that they should be housed, and whether they will consider the rough-and-ready camps which are not as good as lodging houses are suitable places to which their children should be evacuated.

I hope we shall have an assurance that these camps are the camps which the Preamble says they ought to be, that is, permanent camps. It cannot be said that rough-and-ready camps, or camps not so good as lodging houses, are permanent camps. I hope that someone from the Government front bench will remove the misconception which has arisen and will give the assurance that the camps to be constructed will be permanent camps, and that they will be in accord with anything that private enterprise has been able to accomplish up to the present time. We do not want rough-and-ready camps. We have far too many rough-and-ready camps already. I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones), because he ought to know something about rough-and-ready camps. If he will survey the coastline from Rhyl he will see something of the roughness and readiness of camps.

The Deputy-Chairman

I did not hear the Minister's original remark about "rough-and-ready," but I would point out that this new Clause does not deal with the condition of the camps but with the use of the camps.

Mr. Poole

. I bow to your Ruling, Colonel Clifton Brown, but I may be permitted to follow up a point which was made by an hon. Member opposite, that we should not allow the extension of these camps to interfere with the protection at present given to those who have, it is said, invested millions in private camps. I do not know whether the word "millions" is an exaggeration or not, but I am concerned not so much with the people who have invested money in this private enterprise as with the people who go to these camps and with the conditions which I know to exist in some so-called holiday camps. Some of the camps on the North Wales coast call for the most adequate protection for the people who go to them. The sanitation system is disgraceful and disgusting and it is an insult to expect people to go to them. It is obtaining people's money under false pretences to call those places holiday resorts. The only sanitation system in some of them is to discharge the contents of the lavatories on the foreshore, to be washed away by the tide while people bathe there. One wonders whether such places are entitled to be called health resorts.

I do not think, however, that there need be any fear with regard to the competition which will be offered by the proposed camps. There is complete pro- tection. The companies who will run these camps will be called upon to pay for them. The money which is raised by way of loan to provide the camps will have to be repaid on a 20-year basis at 4 per cent. interest. Therefore the camps have to be paid for by the people who will use them, and it is a narrow approach to the problem to suggest that there is danger of destroying some of the value of private enterprise camps. It is a very short-sighted policy and indicates a narrow outlook on life. I wonder whether we appreciate the value which these camps will be to the industrial workers of the Midlands and of South Wales, many of whom have not known a holiday for years, and who could never have a holiday at the prices which private camps require, however cheap they may be.

I wonder whether we appreciate the value to the general health of the community of allowing the workers to find an outlet not necessarily in Blackpool or Lowestoft. I do not know that there is any particular value in the air of either place. I have been to Blackpool and I suggest that the air which blows across Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is as fine as any in Blackpool or Lowestoft, and I hope it will be possible to have one of these camps at Cannock Chase. The value to the health of live community of these camps cannot be calculated in pounds, shillings and pence. It is a question of the general standard of health of the working class, many of whom will be given for the first time an opportunity of breathing God's fresh air in the country with their families, and of realising what it is to relax and recuperate, in order to be fit again for the intensive industrial struggle of to-day. I hope that nothing will be put in the way of using the camps to the fullest extent. Naturally the children come first, but we should also keep the way open to using these camps for those industrial workers to whom they offer the only prospect of a holiday.

Mr. R. Robinson

My hon. Friends and I appreciate very much such assurances as were given by the Parliamentary Secretary. We wish they had gone further, and we hope that in whatever future action he may take, he will not be influenced by the Socialist arguments of some of the hon. Members who have spoken. In the circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Hon. Members


Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 112.]