§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Although this is a comparatively small Bill, as Bills go to-day, I am assured that it is one with a very widespread appeal. The announcement made by the Lord Privy Seal regarding the proposals which it embodies was acclaimed by all parties, and, indeed, the only serious criticism was that it was too modest even as a beginning. Well, there is something to be said in favour of a modest beginning for a scheme which, from some points of view, must be on trial before it can be pronounced such a success as to warrant extension on a large scale. At all events, the administrative machinery is such that expansion should present no difficulty.
The Bill does not specify the exact number of camps to be erected, but the financial provision of £1,200,000.is considered to be sufficient for 50 camps each to accommodate about 350 children, although, of course, throughout the year each would accommodate a very much larger number of children. I would not be precise about these figures, because final data are not yet available.
The Bill has a two-fold object. Firstly, it is intended that approximately 50 camps, of which seven will be in Scotland and the remainder in England and Wales, shall be built as a supplement to the accommodation available for evacuation from the more vulnerable areas. Let me say at once that it is not by any means an alternative to those other resources. As the Lord Privy Seal said in this House on 1st March:However the accommodation available may be extended by the provision of camps it is clear that, viewing the problem as a matter for which a solution has to be found in the comparatively near future, there is no practicable alternative to having recourse to the fullest possible extent to billeting." — [OFFICIAL REPORT 1st March, 1939; col. 1292, Vol. 344.]I mention this because I do not want those people who foresee difficulties in the Government's billeting proposals to think 2074 that this Bill is a solution of their difficulties. The numbers are so large— school children only, not to mention younger children and their parents, in the evacuation areas number about 1,500,000—that the problem of providing camps for any large proportion of them would involve major questions of policy of which finance is not the only one.
It is obvious that for evacuation purposes 50 camps, or, indeed, any number of camps that could be constructed in the near future, will provide no alternative to billeting. They will be a supplement and, no doubt, a valuable supplement, but the billeting proposals must stand. The question has been discussed whether billets or camps would provide the more suitable accommodation for children. It is not necessary at the moment to answer this question. It suffices to say that the camps will be available for whatever purpose proves most convenient, whether it be to provide shelter for children or for other members of the population. It may be added, in connection with war-tune use, that the camps will be designed to permit of rapid expansion, and that under emergency conditions they should be capable of accommodating at least double the number for which they are originally designed in peace. The existence of facilities such as water supply, lighting, sanitation, and cooking arrangements will, of course, make each camp a valuable nucleus around which further buildings can be grouped, if necessary.
Secondly, the camps will be used in peace time mainly for providing school camps for children. Local education authorities are already empowered to provide camps for this purpose or to make use of existing camps, and to incur expenditure for the purpose of sending children to them; moreover, grants may be made by the Government towards the expenses. So far, however, comparatively little has been done in this direction, and I can imagine that the present proposals will be welcomed, from this point of view, by the education authorities. They will not be slow to realise the health value and the educational value of the facilities that the scheme will make available. I do not think I am putting it too high when I claim that the camps scheme will be an important step in our campaign for better health and fitness among the people.
2075 The House may be interested to hear what is the present position as regards school camps. At present there are 20 permanent camps for school children in England and Wales which are provided and run by local education authorities. These contain between them accommodation for roughly 1,400 children, that is to say, 1,400 places. About half of these camps are used for undernourished and weakly children drawn from the poorer homes, in order that they may get the physical and moral benefit of a change from an urban to a rural environment, which they would otherwise have no opportunity of obtaining. They usually stay for a period of about a fortnight, and no charge is made to the parents for the board and lodging of the children.
The remaining camps are used by groups of normal children drawn from town schools to give them the opportunity of doing their school work for a week or two in healthy surroundings. As a rule the parents are expected to make some contribution according to their means towards the cost of food. The average amount charged ranges, I am told, from about 2s. 6d. to about 7s. a week per child, but arrangements are made, either by the local education authority or through voluntary funds, to secure that no child is debarred from attending on account of the inability of the parents to contribute to the cost.
In addition to the camps provided by local education authorities, 16 school camps have been provided in the North of England and in South Wales with the aid of grants from the Commissioner for the Special Areas.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Will the Secretary of State explain to us, before he leaves that point, how it comes to be that there are to be 50 camps, which, as far as I can judge, will be beneficial to the people of this country, particularly to the children, but that only seven will be in Scotland?
§ Mr. Elliot
That was the allocation which was made after a great deal of consultation between the two Departments, and it certainly does not err against the principle of the eleven-eightieths to which we are accustomed in Scotland. I think it is not an unreasonable proportion for a commencement.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
No. It is unreasonable. The eleven-eightieths, as far as education is concerned, does not bear on this matter at all, because you have to take it in accordance with the population. The population of England is over 42,000,000, and of Scotland it is over 4,000,000. England, I think, ought to get 40 camps if Scotland gets only seven.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think the hon. Member is raising a point which should come at a later stage of the Bill. I do not think it militates against the principle of the Bill, which is what I am commending to the House, that there should be camps and an allocation of the camps between the two countries. In the second place, I was giving some examples of camps which, in England and Wales at any rate, have been set up by the Commissioner for the Special Areas and which are rather more closely akin to the larger camps which we are thinking of here.
I was saying that these are in the main larger camps of about 300 places each and at present provide total accommodation of roughly 4,200 places. Twenty-nine local education authorities in the Special Areas collaborate in this scheme and are responsible, as hon. Members representing those areas know well, for the selection of the children, preference being given to those whose parents are unemployed and those whose health is likely to derive special benefit from a period of camp life. No charge is made to the parents, the entire cost of maintenance and transport being met by grants provided for that purpose by the Commissioner. A few of these camps are used during the school holidays to provide holidays for unemployed juveniles from the junior instruction centres run by the Ministry of Labour, and very popular indeed they are. When I was on Tyneside on Monday I heard about the camps from one of the education authority members who was up there, and he said, "Although there is driving snow down here, the children are in the camps and as happy as bees."
In Scotland, education authorities have had power to provide school camps only since 1936. There are, therefore, no school camps at present in Scotland, but several education authorities have the matter under consideration. A certain amount of advantage has, however, been taken by education authorities of their 2077 powers to provide holiday camps. In 1938, seven education authorities provided camps, and 59 camps of varying size were provided—some under canvas, some in suitably situated school buildings and some in premises leased or borrowed. In all, over 9,000 children passed through these camps, the health value of which has indeed been remarkable. In one case the first batch of campers gained on an average two pounds in weight, while the second batch gained no less than five pounds during their stay in the camp. In addition to the camps actually provided, the education authorities gave financial assistance in two cases, while in one county, 11 camps were run with funds provided from voluntary sources. The Scottish Schools' Camp at Cambusbarron conducted by the Educational Institute of Scotland has met with continued success, and at times the accommodation was not equal to the demand. Nearly 2,000 pupils attended the camp during the year. The trek camps established by the institute last year were continued, and attracted some 200 pupils over 14 years of age.
It will be seen from the figures quoted that, though the practice of sending school children to camps is not as yet very extensive, school camps are well past the experimental stage.
The present proposal will be an enormous step in advance. If the usual practice is followed and children are sent for a fortnight at a time, the camps would be capable of accommodating something like 200,000 children if they are used for six months in the year and no more. They will, however, be heated, and it is to be hoped that they will be used not only in the summer months but for a large part of the year. Indeed, some of the organisations for young people have already been making inquiry whether they can have the use of these camps in the winter. If they are heated it may be possible for them to be run for a longer period than the six months.
It may be asked, "What about holiday camps for adults?" The Government recognise the importance of these in connection with the growing holidays-with-pay movement, and they have consulted a number of persons and organisations connected with the movement. The idea of providing camps to serve the double purpose of school 2078 children in term time and adults in the school holidays is at first sight an attractive one, but in actual practice the two purposes cannot readily be combined. Obviously a camp on the dormitory system is unsuitable for family use, and sites in quiet, rural country, which may well be ideal for school purposes, may fail to provide the attractions of sea, river or mountain which holiday-makers might fairly expect.
Accordingly, while the idea of camps for adult holiday-makers has by no means been ruled out of consideration, the present proposals are limited to a programme of camps for school purposes. This will not, of course, prevent the companies responsible for the camps—the companies to which I shall refer later— from making arrangements, if they think it desirable, for the use of any of the camps in holiday time by members of any juvenile organisations, or, indeed, by holiday-makers of any kind to whom camps built on the dormitory plan are acceptable. In the first place camps will be built and laid out primarily for children.
§ Mr. Elliot
That is so. They may require some alteration and modification if they are to house adults. Even so, when they are used for evacuation purposes they will still be on the dormitory system. That is the real difference between holiday camps which are possible for the family as a unit and the dormitory camps in which family life as we understand it is not possible.
As to the machinery for carrying out the proposals in the Bill, the central authorities will be the Minister of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland, that is to say, the Secretary of State. The House will be aware that the arrangements for evacuation are, by arrangement with the Lord Privy Seal, being carried out by my Department and the Department of Health, and this consideration, combined with the experience of those Departments in housing, makes the arrangement a convenient one. The actual work of erecting and managing the camps is to be carried out by two 2079 companies, operating on a non-profit-making basis, which are to be recognised by His Majesty's Government—one for England and Wales and one for Scotland.
§ Mr. Elliot
There will be one for England and Wales. There will be two companies, and they will be recognised by the Government as such. They will be the only bodies authorised to operate the scheme and to receive the financial assistance provided for in the Bill. The companies will be governed by articles of association which will preclude them from carrying on any business for the purpose of profit. It has not been considered necessary to set up a special company in Scotland, in view of the existence of a special housing association which is operating over the whole of the country, and which has undertaken the work of building camps. The association is a. non-profit-making company and its chairman is Viscount Traprain, who is giving his whole time to the work of the association.
§ Mr. Elliot
It seems to me unnecessary to discuss that matter just now. I should have thought that the hon. Member would not have quarrelled with the fact that they are non-profit-making concerns.
§ Mr. Elliot
Lord Traprain. He is a nephew of the late Lord Balfour. There are other members of the board including the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Welsh). Arrangements are in hand to strengthen the staff of the association to enable it to carry out its wider functions.
In Scotland, the hon. Member for Dumbarton will be glad to know, seven camps are to be built within easy reach of the three Scottish cities mainly concerned—four for Glasgow, two for Edinburgh and one for Dundee. The Department of Health, who will be the Department responsible for the central administration of the scheme in Scotland, are working in close touch with the association, and at the association's request technical officers of the Department have inspected some 30 sites and have reported 10 the association. Lord Traprain has 2080 himself visited some of the sites and the association will shortly be sin a position to make their recommendations as to the sites most suitable for the purpose in view. Contact has been established with the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland and both that association and the local authorities concerned, including the education authorities, will be taken into consultation before a final selection of sites is made.
As to the constitution of the English company, the House has already been informed that the Government have been fortunate enough to secure the services of Lord Portal as chairman. I am now able to add that the other members of the Board of Management will be:
Dr. S. Gurney-Dixon (Chairman of Education Committee, County Councils Association).
Mr. George Hicks, M.P. (General Secretary, Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers of Great Britain and Ireland).
Sir Edward Howarth, K.B.E., C.B. (Deputy Secretary, Board of Education).
Dame Florence Simpson, D.B.E. (formerly Controller-in-Chief, Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps).
Mr. Percy Thomas, F.R.I.B.A. (President of Royal Institute of British Architects, 1935–37).
The Government feel assured that they can safely leave the construction and direction of these camps to so representative and distinguished a board.
§ Mr. Elliot
The presence on the Board of a well known architect and a past. president of the Royal Institute of British Architects will ensure that aesthetic considerations are given due weight, a point on which the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, whose generous offer of assistance I have to acknowledge, are most properly interesting themselves.
The House will, no doubt, expect me to give some idea of the control which will be exercised by the Central Department as security for the money which they are being asked to authorise. Briefly, the companies will be required to enter 2081 into agreements with the Central Department whereby the companies will undertake the duties of construction and management of the camps subject to the approval of the Central Department, and the Central Department will make advances towards the cost of construction and towards the necessary services. The agreement will provide for the company executing in favour of the Minister a charge on their assets and for the repayment of one-half of the advances made towards the capital cost of the camps and the whole of the advances for running expenses. It will also include other provisions as to investments, audit, and so on.
Within these limits it is proposed to give the companies as free a hand as possible. The Government have already placed at their disposal the advice of departmental architects as regards the methods of construction and the layout of camps, but the companies will be free to take such other advice as they think fit on these matters and generally to select their staff and make their own arrangements for the control and management of the camps; and in fact to run their own show.
It will be necessary also for the Government to assume responsibility for the general siting of the camps, and in this matter I shall, of course, work in the closest consultation with the Lord Privy Seal and the Board of Education. We have had to consider very carefully the best areas to select if the camps are to serve the dual purpose for which they are intended. For purposes of war we have thought it desirable that the camps should be reasonably accessible to the large centres of population for which evacuation arrangements are being made, so as not to impose an undue burden on transport arrangements, which must in any case be heavily taxed under war-time conditions. For peace-time purposes also, reasonable proximity to the large centres is desirable if relays of children are to be taken at short intervals without undue expense.
For both these reasons we have reached the conclusion that the aim should be to secure sites in rural surroundings some 30 miles or so away from the large centres of population. I should add that in speaking of sites I by no means exclude the possibility of obtaining country mansions, which may well form a valuable nucleus around which hutments may be 2082 placed. A number of these mansions are in the market, and the fact that they are usually well screened by timber makes them the more serviceable for both the purposes which we have in mind. Before leaving the question of sites, I may add that considerable progress has already been made with this matter. A preliminary survey of something like 80 sites, including country houses,, in England and Wales has been made, and the new company will be in a position to review these at a very early date. A number of sites have been inspected by Lord Portal himself, but no actual decision has yet been taken. The company are keeping in close contact with the Council for the Preservation of Rural England as regards the choice.
A good deal of preliminary work has been done in the direction of devising a standard unit for hut construction with a view to simplifying the manufacture of the huts and their erection on the sites. The company have already been assured of all possible assistance from the Royal Institute of British Architects who are preparing a panel of their members whom they consider to be particularly well qualified to supervise the construction and siting of the camps. In this connection, I should like to call the attention of hon. Members who are interested in camps to the exhibition got together by the Housing Centre which was opened only this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I feel sure that this exhibition will be of very great assistance to those who are to plan the camps contemplated under the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, who has just come from the exhibition, tells me that it is a very representative exhibition and very well worth a visit.
Coming to the Clauses of the Bill, Clause 1 makes the necessary financial provision, and I have already referred to the financial arrangements. Clause 2 proposes to give the companies compulsory power of acquiring land subject to confirmation by the appropriate Minister.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Will the Minister advise the companies to consult the local authorities in big industrial areas before the sites are finally decided upon?
§ Mr. Elliot
Yes, certainly. I think that in all cases the companies would do so, 2083 but I will certainly bring that suggestion to their notice. Those who have been interested in the Scottish Housing Company will agree, I think, that they have in all cases consulted the local authority before proceeding actually to the purchase of land. We have compulsory power here, because it is important that the work should go forward without delay, and the figures which I have quoted as to the distances we hope to be from the big towns show that we have only a limited field of choice of land. Indeed, apprehensions have already been expressed in the House that excessive prices may have to be paid. To those apprehensions this Clause provides the answer.
The need for speedy construction justifies also the provision in Subsection (2) of the Clause that for two years from the passing of the Bill the Minister may confirm Compulsory Purchase Orders without holding a local inquiry. A similar temporary provision was included in the Housing Act of 1919 and for the same reason.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Shall we be in the same position as we were during the last War? We were taking over plots of land and found that the landowners were raising the price of the land on account of the exceptional circumstances, and so we took over the land and after we had the land we discussed the terms. Shall we be put in that position?
§ Mr. Elliot
We shall be able to do better than that, I should think. We shall be able to take it over after a reasonable valuation by a Government valuer. The whole purpose of this procedure is to secure expedition, and I can assure the House that we shall proceed forthwith to acquire the land and to construct the camps, and if necessary arguments will be carried on at greater leisure at a later date.
§ Mr. Elliot
Yes, but with reasonable compensation.
Clause 3 provides, in effect, that where plans and specifications have been submitted by the company to the Minister and approved by him restrictions imposed by local by-laws or under the Planning Acts or the Restriction of Ribbon Develop- 2084 ment Act and similar legislation are not to apply. Here, again, the principle of this provision was accepted by Parliament in the Housing Act, 1919, under which by-law restrictions were over-ridden if housing plans had been approved by the Local Government Board. The justification was then, and is in greater degree now, the need for speed.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
Does that mean that there will be a lower standard with regard to the siting of places or will there he a higher standard? We do not want the countryside any more destroyed than it is at present.
§ Mr. Elliot
The standard will not be lowered because, as the hon. Member knows, under the Planning Act an appeal against the refusal of a local authority to permit development lies in practically every case to the Minister, so that direct approval by the Minister of plans submitted to him in the first instance is really not anything more than short-circuiting procedure. Anyhow, the Minister will remain responsible and open to be shot at in the House. The position of the Minister of Transport is substantially the same under the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, and in dealing with any proposals which might come within the scope of that Act I shall certainly consult with that Minister. The last thing he would want is a camp set down in the middle of an arterial road.
It is not, of course, the intention of the Government that considerations of health or amenity or road safety should be overlooked. But the construction of these camps is too urgent a matter to await normal peace-time procedure. It is, however, intended to keep in touch with the local authorities concerned and their officers, and the Government feel assured that, particularly in view of the composition of the Boards of Management of the two companies, the camps will, in fact, be well designed, well situated and well built.
Clause 4 applies to the Companies the provisions of Section 37 of the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, which enable the Unemployment Assistance Board to enter into arrangements with local authorities for the employment, on work for such authorities, of men to whom the Act applies (for periods not 2085 exceeding three months) at rates of wages customary in the district and under conditions suitable for making the men more fit for entry into or return to regular employment. Under Section 37 of the Unemployment Assistance Act the men who are to be employed must come straight to the work from a training course. There is no similar restriction in this Clause, but I anticipate that, for reasons indicated below, most of the men before being engaged on the work will have passed through the Ministry of Labour Instructional Centres.
The House will appreciate that it is not the intention of the Clause to deal with skilled men. The object is to secure employment for men of the unskilled type who have suffered from long unemployment and who are, therefore, handicapped in obtaining employment in the ordinary way. To secure even on a small scale the entry into regular industry of men of this type—particularly of men from the lower age groups—is, I am convinced, an aim which the House would commend. One of the obstacles is undoubtedly the physical condition of the men themselves, which will often have deteriorated. In these cases the men will require some preliminary process of reconditioning to make them fit for regular work, and a preliminary course at an Instructional Centre will be arranged. Even if he has kept himself fit, a man who has been long unemployed is handicapped in obtaining employment by the mere fact that he has been so long out of work. Other things being equal, an employer will naturally prefer to give the job to a man who has a fair record of work rather than to the man who has done no work for a long time.
As it will naturally be more expensive to the company to employ men who, at the outset at any rate, are not of full industrial value, the arrangement will provide for a contribution by the Board to the company of the additional cost involved in employing such men. The men themselves will be employed under ordinary conditions and will receive pay at the recognised or customary rates. The period of employment so far as regards any contribution by the Board, will be limited to three months, as by the end of that time a man should be fit to take his place in the ordinary labour market. Every effort will, however, be made to 2086 secure regular employment for all men who come under the arrangement when their employment terminates, either with the same contractor or elsewhere.
§ Mr. McEntee
Is it proposed that men should be employed direct by the companies or through a contractor?
§ Mr. Elliot
Naturally the company will be its own judge, but I think that in most cases it would let out the contract to a contractor and the men would be taken on in the ordinary way by the contractor.
§ Mr. McEntee
Will the companies have the right to inform the contractor that they desire that a certain number of men should be taken from the Unemployment Assistance Board, and will a contractor be compelled to employ them, and if so, who will get the payment to be made from the Unemployment Assistance Board?
§ Mr. Elliot
Like all other bodies placing contracts the company will have the power of laying down conditions under which they desire a contract to be operated. They could arrange for no men or for a proportion of men to be taken on. The conditions would be laid down in the contract and an arrangement would be made between the Unemployment Assistance Board and the company for the sums to be paid to make certain that the contractors can pay the men the full recognised or customary rates of wages. Section 37 of the Act of 1934, in fact, expressly stipulates that the arrangement must provide for the payment of wages at the rates customary in the district. It is not suggested that the number of unemployed men who are likely to be employed under this Clause will in the aggregate be a large one, since much of the work must necessarily be carried out by skilled labour. But it is hoped that in the clearance of sites and for similar purposes the companies will take advantage of the Clause, and that a valuable experiment will thus be initiated.
I understand that since the publication of the Bill apprehensions have been expressed in some quarters that the effect of this Clause might be to interfere with the normal working of the building industry and prejudice the position of men in the industry. It is hardly necessary for me to assure the House that nothing is further from our intention, and, in order to set at rest any misgivings, I gladly give an assurance on behalf of the Government 2087 that before any arrangements are made under the Clause full consultation will take place with the joint organisations representing employers and employed in the trades concerned. I shall make it my business to secure this as one of the conditions upon which the company will operate, though I have no doubt that the company will themselves see the desirability of adopting such a procedure, and the fact that the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) has consented to join the board of management will in itself be a guarantee that any duty to consult will be carried out both in the letter and the spirit and, I hope, without unnecessary delay.
§ Mr. Elliot
Those who have had experience of being in a minority on such companies know that a minority has always the very powerful lever of resignation if something is being done of which it disapproves—
§ Mr. Elliot
Because I do not disapprove. I cannot conceive of any company starting upon an undertaking of this kind which would wantonly run into conflict with the great organisations of employers and employed in this country.
In conclusion, I would like to refer to the large amount of sympathy that has been expressed towards this scheme. A great number of persons have been kind enough to offer their services in the running of the camps, and help is also promised by various organisations which exist for the purpose of furthering the movement for providing the children and youth of the country with healthy holidays under conditions which appeal so strongly to the younger generations in these times. To those people, our potential customers, I am especially grateful. Here is a case in which the precautions which we are taking against the dangers of war have proved capable of serving the constructive needs of peace, and the House, without distinction of party, will, I am convinced, give the Bill its blessing.
Mr. Creech Jones
I should like to put two points to the Minister. He used the word "hutments" in regard to construction and also referred to standardised sets 2088 or units. Does that mean that we shall only be using timber in the construction or will a variety of materials be used?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is asking it at too great length and is raising Committee points.
§ Mr. Elliot
Obviously the companies will exercise their own discretion as to the materials and the style, but of course, it will be very desirable to use light methods of construction throughout, so as to get as many camps as possible built for the money.
§ Mr. McEntee
Before the Minister finishes will he say something about the furnishing and equipment of the camps? I did not hear him mention that, and among the names of those who are to form the board I did not recognise the name of anybody who has any experience or exceptional knowledge of that aspect of the matter.
§ Mr. Elliot
As I have tried to point out, each of the companies is to run its own course. Each has a competent board of directors, some of whom have had great experience in running camps—Sir Edward Howarth and others—and it is undesirable that I should lay down too many conditions in advance. We are setting up a responsible body of men and giving them a good cheque and telling them to get on with the job.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
This is a Bill to establish two statutory companies not trading for profit, to be charged with constructing and managing 50 camps of, as the Bill says, a permanent character. The camps are to fulfil two purposes. In time of war they are to be arranged for additional accommodation for children and others from the towns. In time of peace they are to serve as camps for schools in a different category, and, if the scheme is enlarged, as we hope it may be, for adults as well. To this end, Parliament is asked to vote £1,200,000 of public money, of which more than half, £700,000, is to be a loan which will be repayable to the Government by the companies, over a period of 20 years and with interest at 4 per cent.
2089 I say at once that we on these benches do not oppose the Bill; on the contrary, although it is a small Measure, it carries out demands which we have voiced inside and outside the House for years, and we shall give it our active support, subject to questions and to criticisms which we may have to put forward. We give it our support, because we believe that such camps are needed for both purposes of which the Minister has spoken and which are set forth in the Bill. They are certainly needed as an additional method of protection and because of the dangers of aerial warfare. For years we have been saying from these benches that air armaments ought to be abolished by international agreement, and I still believe, having watched the proceedings in Geneva for many months, that they could have been abolished. We have been predicting that, if air armaments were not abolished, air warfare would involve bestialities of the most revolting kind. Well, time has unhappily proved us right. Air armaments have intensified warfare, and in the furnace of war international law has been destroyed. The experience of war has been that the air weapon is bestial in its cruelty, to a point which none of us can imagine or conceive without seeing it. In consequence, we are now obliged to spend vast sums in national defence against this danger and included in those sums is this £1,200,000 for which the Minister asks to-day.
For my part, I shall vote this money with a much lighter heart than any of the rest of the £2,000,000,000 which we are asked to vote. I regard the expenditure on the camps as desirable in itself, for the sake of the peace-time results which we hope they will produce, and quite apart from the war-time measures which they involve. We regard the camps as an essential step—indeed as an overdue step—in social progress. Our only complaint, as the Minister anticipated in what he said, is that the Measure is on far too modest a scale. I go so far as to say that it is utterly inadequate for the purposes for which it is proposed and that it is, at best, only a small experiment. So far as air raids are concerned, it is an experiment which perhaps comes so late that its use is very doubtful for the crises with which we may have to deal.
Before I deal with the broader aspect of the scheme and the measures which the Government propose, I would say some- 2090 thing about the technical details of the Bill. Apart from the machinery of the making and managing of the camps, which the Minister described, I want to put some questions and offer some suggestions to him. In the first place, the Minister said a little about the finance of the Bill but not so much as I had hoped. I quite realise that the Government's calculations with regard to the management of the camps must, in a considerable measure, be guesswork, but I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree that the success of the camps as a social feature may well depend on the payments per head which are to be made by local authorities for school children and teachers, and which must be made for adults in respect of holidays, if any adult holiday camps are arranged. 1 should like to ask whether it is calculated that the companies will be able to repay this £700,000, and thereafter to carry on the camps as a commercial and self-supporting proposition, and on what basis of payment per week the estimates have been made. I should like to know whether there have been any close estimates at all and whether the Government have any idea about the number of months in the year during which the camps might be used. The Minister said that they might be used for six months, but I think the period might be longer. The more the camps are used the better will be the chance of making this experiment financially successful. Can the Minister tell us anything about the annual overhead charge for staff and maintenance? If any such information is available it would be of value to the House and of interest generally.
In the second place, I ask the Government whether they are really satisfied in their own minds that £20,000 is enough for a camp for 350 people, together with the equipment which it must have. The Minister spoke of the necessity of devising simplified plans for the camps. Simplification is desirable and we should be the very last to advocate extravagance of any kind, but these camps are to be of a permanent character. They are not only to meet the temporary purpose of an immediate war crisis but are to last for many years and to serve a permanent social purpose. If they are made of inferior materials, or if the workmanship and equipment are less sound than they should be, the camps will deteriorate with great rapidity. A little 2091 extra expenditure may well make a great and real difference to the value of the camps in fulfilment of their social purpose. I hope that the Government will not spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar.
I was extremely glad to hear the Minister say that the proposals of the Bill will eliminate the risks of speculation and profiteering in land, materials and equipment. In that connection it is already reported, not only in relation to the first 50 camps but to the much greater programmes by which the first 50 must be followed, that there is a great deal of speculation in land as the result of the proposals for the camps. No doubt hon. Members have seen in the "Daily Telegraph" the remarks of an eminent authority, Mr. Langley Taylor, president of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. The Government have not been startlingly successful in other parts of their armament programme in preventing profiteering, but we hope that they will be more successful in regard to the camps.
I would say here a word about Clause 4, which deals with the arrangements under which the camps are to be constructed. I agree with the Minister that, on reading Clause 4 for the first time and without knowledge of what was in the mind of the Government, one could easily come to the conclusion that there was an intention to interfere with the normal operations of the building trade. I do not propose to speak further upon this subject because I hope that it will be dealt with in detail by my hon. Friends the Members for East Willesden (Mr. Viant) and East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), but I want to thank the Minister for what he has said about the principle which the Government propose to follow and to say that I am very glad—I think we all are—that they intend to instruct the boards of management that in this matter they shall work in close co-operation with the employers and the trade unions in the building trade.
I turn to the composition of the boards of management of the recognised companies. The boards are to be composed of directors. The Minister has given us a list of eminent persons whose qualifications I recognise to be very high. The Government are quite right to hold that the boards must include people who have a knowledge of construction and of 2092 architecture, and that is why they chose my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich and' a representative of the Royal Institute of British Architects. They are also quite right to put on two representatives of education. I wonder whether that is enough. There are a good many voluntary organisations which have much experience in running camps of this description, such as the National Council for Social Service, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, the Workers' Travel Association and the Youth Hostels Association. I wonder whether the Government would not do well to take someone from the ranks of those voluntary organisations to put on the boards.
There are certain questions which I think to be of higher national importance, connected with what are usually called the amenities of the countryside. The camps have to be camouflaged, but we have also to ensure, if we possibly can, that they will not be an eyesore on the British country. There are to be 50 camps at once, and a great number more later on, if the experiment succeeds. If they are wrongly sited, if they are hideous in construction, if their design is ugly and if they are painted in colours which disfigure the landscape for miles around, as so many buildings do—everybody knows it—then by this Bill we shall do much to debauch the diminishing stretches of British countryside that still remain. I urge on the Government with great force that they should reconsider the composition of the boards and perhaps choose some representatives, such as representatives of the National Trust, who have special knowledge of this matter and whose concern it will be to see that the companies do nothing which might be held to spoil or interfere with the natural beauty of the countryside.
Lastly, under this heading, I want to ask the Minister whether it might not be better to have on the board direct representatives of the municipal authorities. The Minister will be aware that a number of municipal authorities are beginning to take an interest in camps and that some of them, in receiving areas like Brighton and Bridport, have made municipal camps of their own; and that there are others, such as Lambeth, which has decided to make a holiday camp in the country to which it can send children from 2093 the borough. There will be great advantages in maintaining the closest possible co-operation between those who are making such holiday camps for public use and not on a profit-making basis. As a matter of fact, the London area committee of the National Fitness Council called a conference of London boroughs on this subject not long ago, and the experts there assembled considered under several headings the advantages of co-operation of those who were concerned in this matter. The headings were: Elimination of competition in acquiring sites, reduction in construction costs through bulk orders, the need of a unit-construction plan, suitable distribution of camps, the interchange of facilities between borough and borough, and so on. If the municipal camp idea develops, as I hope it will and as an authority well known to us, Alderman Wilmot, of Lambeth, said at the conference that he was certain it would, there should be the greatest advantage in having on the boards representatives of local authorities, in order that all the enterprises might be linked as closely as could be.
I would like to raise for a moment the subject of the powers of the companies and to ask some questions. Under the Bill as it stands, the companies are to become the virtual dictators in what might be a most important department of the national life. It is true that under the Bill the Minister has to give approval to certain things but, as I understand it, that is only before the camps are constructed. Thereafter the companies will not be subject to his control or advice in any way. They will be operating with public money. They will be public corporations acting for the public as a whole. Surely they should be under a statutory obligation to submit their accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for audit every year, in order that he may make an annual report which the Minister can lay before Parliament for its consideration. I am sure the Government will see that some amendment of the Bill is necessary to ensure that this Parliamentary control will be maintained, and I hope that during the Committee stage the Minister will be able to put forward proposals in this sense.
As regards the technical details of the Bill, I would like to say a word about what the Minister told us was in his mind, namely, the expansibility of the camps 2094 in time of war in order that they may take in extra refugees. He said he hoped that the camps would perhaps be able in time of war to take double the number for which they were constructed in time of peace. I shall argue in a moment that we are going to have some very nasty surprises in regard to the number of our evacuees if ever we suffer from air attack, and I think we shall need every scrap of accommodation we can get, especially in country districts well outside the towns. Therefore, I think it is desirable that the camps should be expansible in a very much larger degree than the Minister suggested. One person who has given a great deal of attention to the matter has suggested that they might well be expansible to the extent of 10 times. If that is too much, I think it is only an exaggeration of a vital point.
If they are to expand, there are two things which the Government should keep in mind. In the first place, they must, as the Minister said, be planned from the very start with this in view, with central buildings, sanitary arrangements, and, above all, water supply, for the water supply in some existing camps is not all that could be desired. In time of war an almost unlimited water supply would be essential, and it could easily be provided at a moderate expenditure. All this must be planned in advance, and, in addition, I venture to suggest, the Government should purchase, when the camps are made, adequate areas of land around them, in order that they may be expanded at once without delay. I would urge upon the Government that in that regard they should, if need be, err on the side of extravagance. Further, if expansion in time of crisis is to be immediate, the Government ought to prepare in time of peace large reserves of building materials, with sectional parts of hutments, of which the Minister spoke, properly camouflaged and ready for transport, and large quantities of the necessary equipment. In the case of aircraft we keep great numbers of reserve machines in spare parts. Why should we not keep great numbers of camps in spare parts in the same way? I hope the Government will proceed on that same principle with regard to camps, and that they will add to the Bill such further provisions as may be required for this purpose, and will make the necessary additional financial 2095 provision, so that expension may be instantly possible on a greater scale than the Minister suggested.
The main thing, of course, that must be done if there is to be adequate expansion—and here I come to our more general criticism of the Measure—is that the whole scale of what the Government propose should be increased. In our view, except as an experiment intended to lead to further big developments at once, the Bill is utterly inadequate to either of the two purposes of which it speaks. Let me take them in turn, dealing first with the air-raid danger. Last July, the Lord Privy Seal's Evacuation Committee told us that the whole issue of any future war might well turn on the manner in which the problem of evacuation from densely populated industrial areas was handled, and they went on to say, elsewhere in their report, that accommodation was the limiting factor in the evacuation that could be done. I believe that to be true, and I am extremely uneasy, because I do not believe the Government have yet thought about evacuation in terms of figures that bear any realistic relation to the facts. As present, as I understand the Minister's figures—he will correct me if I am wrong —the Government are making plans to evacuate about 2¾million people: children, their teachers and guardians, mothers with small children, and expectant mothers. They believe in addition, as a result of the survey which they have carried out, that about a million people are planning to evacuate themselves—making arrangements with their friends in the countryside; and the Government are extremely satisfied with the position, because the survey shows that the householders in the reception areas have voluntarily offered something between four and five million places.
I venture to think, with great respect, that all these figures are dangerous fallacies. I do not think for a moment that the number to be evacuated will be as small as the 2¾ million on which the Government seem to be working. Consider the experience of Spain. In Spain the air forces were very small, and were largely concentrated on the front. General Franco and his German and Italian air forces never worked on the theory of the knock-out blow. They made a few experiments, at Guernica and for a few 2096 days at Barcelona, but certainly they did not try to win the war by smashing the morale of the civilian population, as I believe they could have done much more quickly if they had set out to destroy Barcelona and Madrid. And yet in Spain there were 3,000,000 refugees out of a population of 15,000,000, very largely as the result of air bombardment, which drove them from their homes.
Our case, if we experienced an air attack, would be far worse than that of Spain. The aircraft would operate, not by scores, but by hundreds, perhaps even by thousands, and they would certainly try the knock-out blow. We know that the knock-out blow violates every law of God and man, but we also know that within the last fortnight two Governments, those of Czecho-Slovakia and Lithuania, have been reduced to complete national surrender by the satanic threat of the knock-out blow. And we have no deep shelters such as the Spaniards had. Our towns are built of brick, and not of stone, and most of them are jerry-built at that. I am certain that the number of people that would have to be evacuated from our towns and cities would be far higher than that on which the Government are calculating to-day. But let us start with their figure of 2¾million, mainly composed of mothers and children. I am certain that, as their discussions proceed, they will be forced to add the "mixed bag" about whom they are not quite decided—the aged people, the invalids, the infirm, the spinsters, and others who are not engaged in productive work. That would probably mean at least 2,000,000 more. Then there are those who are going to evacuate themselves. If there are already, as the survey shows, a million people who have made their own arrangements, how many more people are going to evacuate themselves when the air bombardment actually begins? The Minister ought to see the red light when he reflects on that most sinister figure of all, the million people who have already made their own arrangements for evacuation.
In addition, there are certain areas which, I am convinced, will have to be totally evacuated, and for which the Government have made no allowance at all. I have cited before in this House the experience of Barcelonetta, the working-class part of Barcelona, which was systematically bombed and thereafter 2097 totally deserted by its inhabitants for many months. I am sure that, if an air attack upon us is anything like what we and the Government expect, the London dock area, and perhaps all London from the docks right up to Westminster, and even beyond, will be totally unfit for human habitation, even if it is still possible to carry on some kinds of productive work. If we put those things together, and then consider that the billeting places will probably be fewer than the four or five million on which the Government are calculating now, unless people are packed very tightly, and if we reflect that many areas which they are reckoning as reception areas or neutral areas can only be so described by a flight of the imagination, and will not survive the onset of war—I think of Chelmsford, Colchester, Derby and other places I have mentioned before—we are forced to the conclusion that far more people will have to be evacuated than the Government expect, and there will be fewer places than the Government are now allowing for.
Considering the proposals of the Bill against the background of these facts, and remembering that the Lord Privy Seal told us that the result of a war might depend on the arrangements made for evacuation, and that the limiting factor was accommodation, we find that these camps provide, on the Minister's calculation, 17,500 places in time of peace, or 35,000 places in time of war, representing, on the Government's own figure of 2¾ million, in the one case 0.7 per cent., or, if you double the peace-time allowance, 1.4 percent. Even if that were expanded 10 times, as some people have suggested, it would not make an appreciable contribution to the problem to be solved. If these are the only camps that we are to have, I do not think they are worth the diversion they have caused of the Lord Privy Seal's attention from deep shelters, with regard to which, six months after Munich, we have still no decision. This is a very small-scale experiment, almost wholly useless for the conditions with which we have to deal at present. If the Government want it to be of any use at all from the point of view of defence against air raids, they must rapidly bring in an additional Measure which will propose action on at least 10 times the scale that is now proposed. Even if they do that, I am still not sure that it will be entirely adequate 2098 in the period during which, probably, the issue of peace and war will be definitely decided, but, whether they are in time or not, I personally should not regret any expenditure which might be undertaken for the purposes of such a proposal.
We want these camps; as I have said, for their peace-time uses, and we want them soon. We want them for school camps; we want them for holiday camps for adults. We believe that the need and the demand for such camps already exists on a scale far beyond what the Government have allowed for. Indeed, everyone knows that there is a tremendous demand and an urgent need for school camps for children. The Minister told us of some enterprising local authorities—I think he said there were 20—who have begun to make such school camps, and of 14 or 15 more in the Special Areas who have co-operated in making other establishments of the same kind. I know of the activities of one of those local authorities, namely, the Surrey County Council, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will describe its work to us later. I know also that the Glasgow City Council have established holiday camps for necessitous children, where, I believe, they keep children for a fortnight at 30s. all in. But these are only tentative beginnings.
I think all hon. Members on this side are agreed that a period of camping in the country ought to be an essential part of the curriculum of every town and city school. It would be immensely beneficial to the physique, the mind and the character of the child. As a general proposition, I do not think that that is disputed by anybody in any walk of life, from His Majesty the King downwards. I believe that, if the Government are sincere when they deplore the fact that the people are leaving the land, they ought to make arrangements to let the children see the country, and then perhaps some will decide to stay in it. This is a matter in which we have been far outstripped by foreign countries. In Poland, Sweden and Denmark, school camps of this kind have been in general use for a large number of years. One of the most vivid memories of my life is of going to the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912. Amidst all the excitement and pageantry there is nothing that remains in my memory like a visit to a school camp in a lovely forest outside Stockholm. That 2099 was nearly 30 years ago. We are not nearly as advanced as Sweden was then.
We are not accustomed to think of Poland as being, in social legislation, very advanced, but Poland, having begun experiments in this direction with schools in the slums, have now applied them to almost all the schools in their towns and cities. In the big schools the classes go out at different times of the year for periods of two or three weeks—sometimes longer. The camps are put out in the woodlands and fields. They are in use for 10 months in the year, the whole time that the schools are at work, and it is found that the longer the period for which the children are kept in them, the better the results. If they live in them for a month they put on more weight in the last week than in the first three weeks together. And I do not think the advantages are all in regard to health. In Poland they teach the children gardening, vegetable cultivation, and looking after chickens and cows; and those who have studied the Polish system agree that it really provides character training as well as physical and mental training. Every hon. Member, from his own experience, must see that if we can have the same thing here it will be of immense advantage to our nation. The essence of town and city life is constant change and movement. Unless it is corrected in other ways it must lead to restlessness and instability and an unsatisfactory approach to the problems of existence. The true corrective is the peace of the country, where a gentle order and natural life can be found. A Measure which proposes that only 200,000 children should pass through these camps every year is only a first step, which we hope is destined to lead to greater things.
That same consideration is of no less force with regard to camps for adults. I share the view of the Minister that it is extremely difficult to organise a camp which will cater for both children and adults—and I do not want to do it, because I hope the school camps will be in use for schools virtually the whole of the year, except when they are in use for Boy Scouts and similar organisations. I hope, therefore, that there will be separate adult camps. There is an immense demand for them. You can tell it by the extent to which holiday camps, run on commercial lines, are springing up. On 2100 stretches of our coast there are small towns of chalet bungalows, with recreations and amusements of all kinds. Some of these, no doubt, serve a useful purpose; some are nuisances to local authorities; some are undesirable in various ways; some are eyesores; and nearly all are organised with a view to making the visitors spend their money in a senseless way. Some of the camps are organised on a great scale. There is one where they take in 2,500 people at a time in August. But even these do not begin to meet the need. There is still a great unsatisfied potential demand. You can tell that by one simple figure. The Youth Hostels Association membership has increased in seven years from 10,000 to 80,000, and they still cannot nearly meet the demand made on them, and the only limiting factor in their expansion is the lack of capital to set up more hostels.
There is a vast new public coming along which has as yet had no chance to make use of these facilities, and in any case could not use them on grounds of poverty. I mean those who are now about to receive holidays with pay. According to the Government's figures, the number of those having holidays with pay is increasing by 1,000,000 every year. That may be so. There are at least 12,000,000 more who have not yet got them, but will have them soon. These are nearly all lower-grade manual workers. They cannot pay the charges of the commercial camps. Something will have to be done for them. The Lambeth Corporation calculate, according to Alderman Milner, that in the camp which they are to make they will be able to provide a week's holiday at a maintenance cost of not more than 45s. for adults, with corresponding charges for children. That will be within the reach of those who soon will be demanding holiday camps for the million. I hope the Government will now determine that this Bill shall be only a forerunner of much larger measures to meet the need. Whatever money they ask for, we on these benches will very gladly vote it for this purpose.
I hope that Ministers who are to speak later in the Debate will be good enough to deal with some of the technical details I have raised, that they will explain a little more the financial basis of the Government's calculations, that they will give more guarantees about profiteering and the quality of the camps, that they will 2101 reconsider the composition of the boards of maintenance, and that, by amendment of the Bill, they will place these companies under Parliamentary control, providing for an audit and an annual report. I hope they will make much greater provision for expansion in time of war. Above all, I hope they will tell us that they have in mind the utter inadequacy of this present Bill for the social purposes of which the Minister spoke, and that they intend to bring in a more ample Measure very soon. In this regard, at the present moment, they must, of course, think of war requirements, and I hope they will think of what the Lord Privy Seal said last July. Instances were quoted to us by the Lord Privy Seal then of children in London who during the last War suffered serious and permanent injury because of the shock to the nervous system of repeated air raids. He went on to say that no one could gauge what the conditions would be in a future war; we must assume that they would be infinitely worse than in the last War. I hope the Government will remember that. I hope they will remember also what it will mean to the children of our poorer classes, and to their parents, if at last they can have an opportunity to enjoy, on equal terms, the peace and the beauty of the countryside.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Major Sir Ralph Glyn
All of us, I think, agree very largely with what has been said by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). At the same time, we realise that this is not intended by the Government to be anything more than an experimental scheme. I agree that it ought to be brought under Parliamentary control—not that I doubt the efficiency of the board, because I think the selection made has been extraordinarily good, but it is right and proper that this House should not lose sight of the tremendous advantages that will accrue to the population from the provision of these camps. I hope we can think for the moment of the aspect of this problem as it affects the town child. There is, near my constituency, a camp which has been in use for children for some time, and I have seen the effect it has had on the children coming from the crowded parts of Oxford. If it has that effect on children from a comparatively small place like Oxford, one can realise the immense ad- 2102 vantages there would be if we could bring children from those densely crowded places where they can hardly get a breath of air, and where—amazing as it is in this small country—they not only do not see the country but do not see the sea.
The camps must obviously be in units so that they can be rapidly expanded, and the amenities ought in every case to have some regard to the recreational facilities. It is important that the children should learn to swim, and have a chance of getting around the countryside. I know that in the Surrey County Council schools a great deal has been done to instruct the children, before they go to the camps, in the kind of things that they must remember if they are to retain the friendship of the people in the country. We do not want to see paper thrown down and gates left open. These are very simple matters, in which children would be delighted to co-operate if they knew what was required of them. Many of the teachers would gain almost as much as the children from a short residence in the country.
Also, in regard to this scheme in the Bill as drawn—this may be a matter for the Committee stage—it ought to be possible to get the collaboration of companies with public utility concerns; for instance, with the Thames Conservancy, where there is a very large area and where that body has most efficient engineers, where there are districts where camps can be put up with good sanitation, where the communication is good, and where the children can obtain swimming facilities, and so on. The support of the scheme in the minds of the general public largely depends upon the three conditions which the hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned always being borne in mind. The site must be suitable from the point of view of camouflage and of protection from air attack; it must not be unsightly and so gain the disapproval of the residents who live in the district; and it must be a site with which communication is easy, which is one of the most important problems.
In all schemes of evacuation the railways are to be asked to carry a tremendous burden, and it will be necessary to remember that beside troop and munitions movements, the evacuation of civil population will, to a large extent, be running in a contrary flow to the military requirements. It also means that there 2103 may be the evacuation of casualties From casualty clearing stations to base hospitals further off. Therefore, these camps should be sited where communication is easy, and, if possible—and I imagine this is already understood—every group of schools that may use a particular camp for a fortnight in the year should be the group of schools which would go there in time of emergency. The children would know the district, and the people would know them. They would not be strangers in a strange place. In time of aerial attack, one has to remember that everybody's nerves are a bit strained, and it makes all the difference to children if they can go to surroundings that they know and meet familiar faces and people who are really anxious to comfort and to help them.
There is also another aspect, and that is in regard to medical inspection and supervision. It is of the utmost importance that there should be such a relationship created between the school medical officers in the counties and the districts where these camps are placed, and their opposite numbers in the urban areas, so that there can be an interchange of views. A great deal can be done in regard to nutrition and matters of that kind if there is close collaboration between the medical profession who work among children in town and country. The experience of many of us has been that children in rural districts are sometimes unable to get milk as easily as children in the towns. The milk is rushed up to the big towns, and it is very hard to get it under the present dispensation. If more can be done, as is being done in some districts, to teach children how to cook and how to produce vegetables in the gardens round these camps, there will be brought into the minds of the town children the idea of what the land itself is, and the joy of working on it and cultivating it.
I feel strongly that those who live in the country will be very short-sighted if they object to the expansion of this scheme. if we are to make the people contented on the land, we shall have to raise the standard of rural labour all round and make it productive. At the present moment there is not the inclination to encourage children in the country to remain on the land, and certainly to the town child it is an entirely unknown 2104 occupation. Therefore, this scheme offers not only a tremendous hope for the future health of the children, but it is a scheme which will give a great deal of work to unemployed persons at the moment. I am sure that public opinion will see to it that these places do not become eyesores, and I agree with my right hon. Friend who introduced the Bill that that subject is a matter of tremendous importance.
I hope that the House will pass this Bill without an unnecessarily long discussion, because I am sure that once the scheme is established the effects will be so obvious, especially if a report is made to Parliament annually as to the work done by these camps, that there will be a continually progressive scheme of establishing camps for children and making them part of their ordinary school life. There is one other matter that should be borne in mind. There is no reason why these camps should not be used for far longer periods than six months. I also visited the camps in Poland and Sweden, and a great deal depends on the care and maintenance of these camps. I hope that we shall utilise the kind of buildings which they have found in Sweden are able to withstand the weather. I hope that there will not be a great deal of expenditure on bricks and mortar, because I believe that these camps, probably as invention enables us to take better advantage of fresh air, may even become out of date. Nothing is more interesting than to notice how the new schools in different parts of the country are improved in type as a result of experience. I should be sorry to see these camps stereotyped in bricks and mortar at the moment. Have your foundations of concrete and your wooden buildings, and use perhaps shingles for roofing. If properly looked after, these buildings will last far longer than we shall want these camps there; they can be put up a good deal more quickly and will give a greater volume of employment for those who are out of work.
There is, I hope, a possibility that in this scheme we may do something to help in regard to the winter recreation of the children. If these children go to these camps, what they will miss most will be the lights and sounds of the big city. How are you to meet that? We do not want to rush them to the local cinema. We want to give them occupation and game space, so that in the evening they can occupy themselves. I believe that 2105 during those evenings it will be possible, by collaboration, to bring about useful contacts between the country children and the town children in these camps, so that they will get to know each other better, play their games and realise that there is not the division between town and country which is so often thought to exist. These camps have to be made a success. If they are to be a success you have to study the psychology of the children and those who are with them. If you are going to use the camps in the winter they have to be bright and happy in the evenings, just as they are going to be full of happiness and good health in the summer months.
I am discussing the question solely from the point of view of the children, because the requirements of the adults are being met very rapidly. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman opposite said about some of the disadvantages of these adult camps. The large railway companies are studying this matter. In view of the opposition that has been aroused by persons who own boarding-houses in seaside resorts, one has to proceed with caution. There are camps to which people want to go where there is not a moment of peace morning, noon and night, and where you get neither rest nor sleep, and you live on the edge of your nerves, but people apparently are willing to pay to do it. If it is their idea of a holiday, and this is a free country, I have no objection to such camps being provided, but not at Government expense. We should leave that to those who cater for that sort of amusement. There are other camps. I hope that, in conjunction with the trade unions, it will be possible for camps to be started, perhaps through the Workers' Travel Association or otherwise. That is what we hope to see. We hope it will be possible to establish camps at points off the main line and on branch lines, where there are good facilities, and that the arrangements will include not only the cost of living in the camps for a definite period, but will include a special return excursion ticket. It is better at the moment to concentrate on what is the real and urgent need of establishing camps to be used in time of war to get children out of the appalling conditions that would exist, and we ought to do it on sound lines and develop it as quickly as pos- 2106 sible. Therefore, I welcome this Bill very much. We all ought to congratulate the Minister of Health and the officers of his Department upon the way they have worked out this Measure and for the collaboration of the Board of Education. I am sure that we are seeing to-day the start of something which is going to do more for the physical happiness and well-being of the children of this country than almost any other Measure which this House has considered for years.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
We on the Liberal Benches gladly support the Second Reading of this Bill and will do everything we can to secure its rapid passage into law. It is one example of good coming out of evil. It does not often happen, but something of the kind is occurring here. It is true, as has been said, that, unless this is going to be regarded purely as an experiment, it will be of very little use. I regard it, and I hope the Government do, frankly from that point of view. If these companies succeed in doing their work and they become popular and effective, I hope they will take very rapid action indeed to push on with the building of similar camps all over the country. They are bound to have, as has been said, the most far-reaching results on the happiness and the health of the future generation of the people who will live in this country. I hope that they always will be used as school camps and not for the other purpose which, unfortunately, we have to bear in mind. The Minister said that there are to be seven camps for Scotland and the rest for England and Wales I would like him to give an assurance—and I know hon. Members from Wales feel strongly about this—that there will be a definite number allocated to Wales. Perhaps later on we may have a statement. At least three of the camps should go to Wales, there should be one in the North and one in the South, and another in a suitable place.
As to the purposes for which the camps are to be provided, namely, that of camp schools, they may be divided into two. There is the camp school used for the purpose of taking out the children for the week-end, when they do not get any teaching, and there is the still more useful type of camp where the children are kept for a fortnight or more when they 2107 can actually do their school work there. These are the two types, and I hope that the latter will be the one which will function the most. The Minister has said that the question of providing housing for those taking holidays with pay is a difficult one and is not contemplated in connection with this Bill. I hope that the corporations will find that they are able to develop on these lines later on, as it is of the utmost importance from all points of view. Something has been said about Parliamentary control, and I entirely agree that it is essential that this House should keep its finger on the pulse of what is being done and be in a position to raise matters connected with the general policy that is being pursued by these corporations. We do not want to be in a position to ask a question as to why one brick is laid upon another or anything so minor as that, but we do want to know the general policy in an annual report, and so keep the control in our own hands.
As to the number of those who are likely to be evacuated, an estimate has been made that there will be some 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 persons who are non-essential to war economy. It is clear, therefore, that in addition to what has been provided in the way of billets, a vast expansion of this scheme will be necessary. I understand that each camp will provide accommodation for 300 to 500 persons in peace-time, and in wartime for 700 to 1,000. Obviously, the meaning is that in war-time they will be much more crowded together. I suppose it is natural that under such conditions they will not expect quite the same facilities as in peace-time, but I imagine that there will be a certain amount of sub-divisions in order to make the camps suitable in war-time. With regard to the right size, it has been estimated that for the. camps themselves not less than 10 acres is required for each camp, and that in addition 10 acres should be provided for the purpose of playing fields and general amenities. That means a site of between 20 and 30 acres.
But there is a great deal to be said for the Government going further than that and buying the land round about each camp, otherwise it will rise in value and will be bought for the purpose of 2108 providing some cheap amusement park, and perhaps destroying all the work that has been done to provide a camp which does not interfere with the amenities of the district. I think that is a very important point. Ample provision should be made to keep these camps intact in really rural surroundings. It is estimated that the cost of a camp in peace-time will be about £ 40 per head, excluding land and furniture, and £20 per head in wartime, so that you get 50 camps costing £1,000,000, which is the estimate we have had put before us. When you consider that the average amount spent on buildings for the last three years in this country is about £250,000,000, an expenditure of £1,000,000 seems a very small thing indeed, and, obviously, it is not going to interfere with the general building programme of the country. I attach great importance to securing that these camps shall be built in such a way that they do not become an eyesore on the countryside, as has unfortunately been the case in some instances. There is no necessity for it. It simply requires foresight and careful planning from the beginning. I have no doubt that if there is careful planning, if the buildings are soundly located and if suitable materials are used, they will not interfere with the beauty of the landscape or with the general amenities of the neighbourhood. I have no doubt it will be thought wise to use for the purposes of these camps low grade pasture and grazing land of a nature which has no high agricultural value.
With regard to the proposition from a financial point of view, I think that if the scheme is skilfully devised and became popular, and is generally supported in the way we hope it will be, there should not be any great material loss to the country as a whole, indeed, we may hope that the expenditure may pay for itself. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he was going to make the fullest use of the experts who are so anxious to place their services at his disposal. He has actually on the board a representative of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and the Royal Institute of British Architects. I hope that in connection with every scheme a really competent architect will be engaged to lay it out and that there will be consultations with a panel of expert town-planning architects. The services of 2109 these people are available and the Government will be well advised to make use of them. I think that is the intention.
I hope there will be consultation with such bodies as the National Trust when any of their properties come into the question, as may be the case, and with the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, when any question of commons may crop up. I think that particular regard should be paid to placing a camp in any area which has been scheduled or mentally scheduled as a national park recommended by the National Parks Committee of 1931. Quite obviously they should be guarded with special care because we do not want to interfere with their future usefulness from that point of view. With regard to materials I think it will be found that the best way will be to use pre-fabricated timber, the construction to be concentrated in one place and done on the cheapest possible scale. It could then be sent out: to the various camps and there would also be a reserve of which rapid use could be made in war-time.
The Minister of Health made a reference to actual experiments which have taken place during the last 20 years in connection with these camps. He said there were about 20. I think I am entitled, as an example, to make a reference to the work that has been done by the Wolverhampton School Camp, because it was a pioneer effort, one of the earliest. It was started in 1923 under the capable direction of the Director for Education for Wolverhampton, Mr. Warren. During the period since then 29,000 school children have passed through the camp. They come 90 at a time, 45 boys and 45 girls. They leave school on the Friday afternoon and stay there until after breakfast on the Monday morning, when they are brought back again by bus. In that sense the rates of the town support the camp. There are occasions when different local bodies and associations, like the Rotary Club, take over the camp for a week-end. During the holidays at Whitsun and in the summer, children stay there over the whole period of a week or a fortnight. No charge is made and only the poorest children are selected. They are looked after by the educational staff of the borough, who render the most valuable voluntary service both in time and money, because they pay their own 2110 expenses. In this particular case—other camps may be different—the whole cost is borne by voluntary contributions.
The camp costs £1,000 a year, and that money has all been raised locally in the town. At the beginning the building was of wood, but in 1938 they decided to erect a brick building and raised a sum of £7,000 for the purpose, a contribution of £1,000 being made by the directors of the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club. I have been to the camp on a number of occasions and anyone who has visited the camp cannot but be pleased at the immense benefit it is to the children who have the good fortune to go through the experience. I hope that the experience of the last 16 years of Wolverhampton in this matter will be made use of and that the services of those who have been working there will also be used by the Government. I am quite sure that they will be ready to place their experience and advice at the service of the Government. I would just like to add this, that at a time when the nation in connection with National Defence is devoting such a vast expenditure of money and so much energy to building up instruments of destruction it really is pleasant to spend one afternoon, at any rate, on an aspect of the Defence programme which is going to render some benefit to the nation as a whole for many decades to come.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Sir Jonah Walker-Smith
I should like to mention one or two matters before making the request which I want to make to the Minister. I understand that the Minister of Health will be responsible to this House for all that happens so far as this subsidised non-profit making company is concerned, and that we shall be able to put such questions as we may desire to put about this company to him. I understand also that the Minister of Health is responsible for the plans and constructions of this subsidised company. I think that is perfectly right, having regard to the personnel of the board of the company. I thought that the Minister had reserved to himself the question of determining the allocation of these particular camps. I hope that that is the case, and if it is the case I hope there will not be excluded from an allocation those particular areas which for the time being have been scheduled as neutral. I can quite understand that in evacuation areas it will be quite impossible to set up 2111 these camps and that the areas which are scheduled as reception areas will naturally be the most desirable for the allocation of these camps, but I would like to be assured that large industrial areas which are scheduled as neutral, which are in fact very attractive to any enemy bomber, and which are very vulnerable, will not be excluded from the possibility of having the benefit of one of these camps so far as they are used for peace purposes.
Let me make my request to the Minister. It is that he should delete from the provisions of the Bill Clause 4. I think when he has given consideration to the views I have on this matter he will agree that such a Clause is unnecessary and undesirable, and that it will be a very mischievous Clause in the Bill at this particular time. There will be no one who does not agree with the general proposal for the building of these camps. I agree that it is right and proper that this should be regarded as experimental. When the Minister and others have obtained a wealth of experience as a result of the expenditure of this comparatively small sum of £1,200,000 for these few camps, and the policy has been accepted and the principle established, I believe that the number might very well be multiplied by at least 20 times. I gather from the Minister's remarks, and also from the estimate of the cost, that the proposed method of construction is one which is regarded more as temporary construction, although the camps will be of a permanent nature. I do not think there is anything to be said against that. Obviously, it indicates the intention to adopt some method of mass production. Having regard to the fact that the necessity for the speedy completion of this construction has been emphasised by the Minister on two or three occasions, it is very desirable that there should be some method of mass production; but if such a method is to be used, I would point out that it is a very unsatisfactory method to adopt for the purpose of training the unemployed who are at present under the general control of and a charge upon the Unemployment Assistance Board. I wish to emphasise that such a method of construction is quite unsuitable for the training of these unemployed men, as I think the Minister fully appreciates and as, I think, was appreciated when the Bill was drafted, for Clause 4 states that: 2112The Board may under Section thirty-seven of the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, enter into agreements for their employment upon work for local authorities "—work which, it is implied, is suitable work on which to continue the training; that is to say, leisurely work, work which is not mass production, and in connection with which speed is not essential, work which is a suitable link in the general chain of training. It is recognised that work on the construction of these camps is quite unsuitable for that purpose, for the Clause goes on to state:Provided that the employment of persons upon work for a recognised company in pursuance of an agreement made under this Section need not be in continuance of, or part of, training and instruction afforded in connection with a training course, and where the work is not utilised as part of a training course.That proviso is inserted because it is recognised that the particular class of construction work involved is quite unsuitable as an element in the training of these men. Therefore, quite unlike the provisions of the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, this proposal for the utilisation of these unemployed men is in no way connected with their efficient training. As far as that is concerned, the mask is thrown off. If the purpose is not to train these men and to make them better qualified for other work subsequently, what is the purpose? What other justification can there be for the utilisation of these men on this work? I know it is plausible to say that these camps are excellent things—as everybody will agree—and that unemployed men are to be absorbed in the construction of them, and that therefore, two birds are killed with one stone. That is admirable in theory, but in this case, it is unsound in practice. It is very laudable to find work for these unemployed men who come under the Unemployment Assistance Board, but if there is no justification for doing so on the grounds that it is a link in the chain of training, it can be justified only if there is not at the present time sufficient labour skilled in such work as is required in the construction of the camps.
I submit that it is not of very much use to employ labour which is unskilled, untrained and inexperienced in this class of work merely for the sake of making unemployed those experienced, qualified and skilled men who are available already. At the present time, in the building industry, there are, unfortunately, no 2113 fewer than 200,000 skilled building operatives unemployed; and when I use the term "skilled building operatives," I mean those who are skilled in the various branches in which they work in that industry. These men are available for work on these camps. If we employ some of the men from the Unemployment Assistance Board, it will merely keep out of work these 200,000 skilled building operatives to whom I have referred. There is ample labour available already. This work, involving the expenditure on labour alone of about £1,000,000, will, if the camps have to be built within, say, three or six months, require a further 1,600 or 2,000 men. There are 200,000 unemployed building operatives available. If this sum of £1,000,000 were multiplied 20 times, it would mean a requirement of about 30,000 or 40,000 men. There are 200,000 unemployed building operatives available. In these circumstances, if there is no justification either on the ground of a continuation of training or of a scarcity of labour, it is very undesirable that there should be these peculiar facilities for introducing this untrained labour, seeing that it would have the effect of causing still further unemployment in an industry where already unemployment is rife.
I quite recognise the assurance which the Minister gave, and I am sure that he intends to implement it to the full; but this is the thin end of the wedge, and if we permit a provision of this sort to have statutory effect in this case, a little later we shall be asked gradually to inflate, dilute, or augment—whatever may be the term—any particular industry with the 400,000 men who are at present under the control of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I know the working of the official mind in these matters. About two years ago, when it became clear that the Service Departments would be making very considerable demands upon the building industry, they calculated that the skilled labour in the building industry was insufficient to meet the demands. Therefore, they consulted the authorised representatives of the building industry, and they came to the conclusion that the number of skilled building operatives ought to be augmented by about 20,000. Having satisfied themselves on that, they suggested two alternative ways of meeting the Government's requirements—either augmentation or a restriction on private building. The representatives of the 2114 building industry chose neither alternative, and said that if the Service Departments would accept the good offices of the building industry, that industry would see that the requisite labour was available in order that the building programme of the Service Departments might proceed without let or hindrance. This was accepted, and the result was that the programme was carried out satisfactorily, no additional labour whatever being required.
§ Sir J. Walker-Smith
No, I am speaking of England and Wales. More recently, in connection with air-raid precautions, a calculation was made, and it was anticipated that there would have to be an augmentation in the number of men in the building industry. Again, the organised employers and operatives assured the Department concerned that all demands would be met adequately without there being any augmentation or dilution. Let it be clearly understood that there is no necessity for such augmentation or dilution, since there are 200,000 men unemployed in the building industry; it is merely a question of the judicious transference of pockets of unemployed to particular places where they are required. I consider that it is very unwise to make a provision which would facilitate the introduction of unskilled men into this camp construction when there is that enormous number of skilled and experienced men unemployed in the building industry. I think I must have satisfied the Minister that this augmentation certainly is not needed.
§ Mr. Elliot indicated dissent.
§ Sir J. Walker-Smith
I repeat that if these men from the Unemployment Assistance Board are introduced into this work, it will merely mean that for every one who is utilised there will be unemployed one more experienced man. There is not very much sense in that. Further, I assure the Minister that if speed is such an essential factor in this work, as he has told us and as I entirely agree, there is an optimum number of men that can be usefully employed. If more men are employed, it will not increase the speed, but lessen it. There is a limit to the number that can be usefully and efficiently employed on work of this sort. When there is a restriction of that sort, there is no 2115 use in having men from the Unemployment Assistance Board, who are not competent, who are not trained, who are not efficient and experienced, taking up the room of these skilled men now in the ranks of the unemployed, who would ensure that the work' was carried out far more efficiently and expeditiously than it would be by the method proposed. It is not a link in the chain of training, it will make for retardation rather than for acceleration, and it will cause a certain amount of waste.
I know the Minister has been fortunate enough to secure, as director of the company, the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks). He could not have chosen anyone better or more experienced, and I am sure that, so far as in him lies, he will see that nothing is done which cuts athwart the organised rates of the building industry. But even so I think it is undesirable to have a provision of this kind on the Statute Book, a provision which would lead us still a step farther towards the possibility of a facile dilution of the industry. Firstly, we have this particular Section in the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934. The safeguard there is that it must be part of the training scheme. Then we come to this Bill in 1939, and we knock that away and say that it need not be anything to do with training, but that we can just put these people into one of these works, which is to some extent subsidised by the Government, and so we can dilute the industry. Step by step one gets to that state, and I think that, notwithstanding the undertaking which the Minister has given—and I am sure, that he personally will see that it is carried out to the letter—we should ask, What is it for? Why do we want this Clause, this dangerous and mischievous Clause, tin the Bill? In the future we may be faced with the fact that we have already approved the principle and that, therefore, it might as well be extended further, just as it was extended from 1934 to 1939.
If the Minister will give all these matters his careful consideration, I think he will conclude that this Clause is absolutely unnecessary and is a deterrent rather than a help to his purpose. I think he will realise that he is in danger of creating a certain amount of undesirable friction and that it has been a mistake to introduce a Clause of this kind, 2116 as being totally unnecessary and not helping the objects of the Bill in the very least. I think he should realise too that it will be no blow to the amour propre of the Government to recognise their mistake and delete this Clause in order that these ill-effects may not accrue. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give this his careful consideration and see whether he cannot, even at this stage, eliminate this very unsatisfactory Clause.
§ 7.4 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker-Smith) into the discussion of Clause 4. The Bill, in general principle and purpose, has received the good will of the House and is generally welcomed. I think that we are all agreed that we are making a start with a very important national scheme and that we are following in the wake of a number of interesting experiments in this particular field which have already been made in our own country and in other countries. The explanatory note attached to the Bill points out thatcamps will be available as school camps in peace time and for the accommodation of persons moving from evacuation areas in the event of war.I am glad that in the drafting of the Bill no such limitation has crept into the text, and in the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of the Bill he made it clear that possibly other purposes could operate within the scope of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education, speaking in another place a month ago, pointed out that it was the Government's intention, so far as school camps were concerned, to secure a planned development from the beginning, and that it was better to do that, than leaving it to the local authorities and voluntary organisations and making grants. That is undoubtedly true so far as school camps are concerned. In all parts of the House the immense value of these camps is recognised, and I do not desire to waste time in elaborating the enormous benefits, both to the children and to the general public, which the creation of these camps will confer.
This Bill is a very small beginning in what is a very considerable problem. The Minister indicated that the present accommodation would secure facilities probably for only about 200,000 children of our 2117 school population in the course of a year, and that the maximum accommodation was likely to be, in peace time, no more than 17,500 at any one time. We all recognise, therefore, that there is still a great deal of additional effort necessary if the school population is to be covered. I appreciate the difficulties which have been indicated by the Minister, for adapting the children's camps so as to accommodate in emergency times increased numbers of children. I think we must keep the point in mind that once you have created a camp—and the Bill is concerned with the creation of permanent camps— there are definite limits to which the camps can be expanded in an emergency, unless very considerable capital expenditure is incurred at the very outset, an expenditure which will be out of all proportion to the likely revenue-earning capacity of those camps if they are to pay their way on their smaller size at establishment.
If these camps are to cater for an emergency population, obviously you will have to spend a very considerable capital sum in respect to drainage, sanitation, water, heating, catering accommodation, creation of suitable halls, and other important items necessary immediately an emergency population arrives. I suggest that these camps, important as they are for peace time purposes, can serve only a somewhat limited purpose when an emergency comes about. I agree that it is important that there should be a limitation on the size of camps, even in emergency times, and, I think, there should be limitations on possible extension in emergencies. I want to make the point that the capital of £20,000 necessary for the construction of a camp to meet both peace and emergency needs is possibly on the low side and some of the capital costs have perhaps not been clearly foreseen. I take the view that a considerable area of land ought to be purchased when a camp is established, because if children are to use these camps, you must have playing fields, with certain amenities, and you must protect the camps by some kind of border running around them. I think, too, you have to safeguard the children in respect to health, you have to see that their water supply is pure; you often have to arrange in rural districts a completely new sanitary system, and you have other obvious capital costs which are of a considerable size.
2118 I want the Minister also seriously to consider whether, even within this limited experiment, the company which is being formed might not be urged to experiment with camps for family holidays. The camps which are proposed under the present project are limited to children's camps, which have dormitories, and they will presumably have school halls, but I think it is generally recognised that you cannot, even for a limited period of the year, with a dormitory camp organisation, adapt such camps for the purposes of the family holiday. Family holiday centres have to be deliberately created. I can speak personally from experience in this matter. You cannot readily adapt a school for holiday purposes for adults. It is more difficult with a camp which is a special type of holiday, where the mother, father, and children need to be near each other and where special amenities have to be provided in order that the adults may have a reasonably satisfactory holiday.
It may be urged that there are already sufficient agencies in existence which can provide for the family holiday without asking the new camp company to take this problem into its consideration. Some reference has been made already to the opposition that such a proposal would receive from representatives of the organisations in the seaside resorts, but I feel that such opposition to be somewhat shortsighted. The more you create holiday facilities, and the more you induce people to enjoy those facilities, the greater, I think, will be the demand for accommodation in the seaside resorts. The holiday centres will not be prejudiced. The camp holiday will probably be taken one year and the seaside holiday another, and on the whole the industry will tend to flourish. It is my experience that the developments of which I have a practical knowledge have in the long run brought increased business to the seaside resorts. I do not think hotel keepers need be apprehensive, because we are trying to cater for a class which up to the present has not been able to enjoy seaside holidays.
Already in competition with the seaside hotels and boarding houses are a number of camps, run on commercial lines, which have sprung into existence in recent years and a large number of new camps are already being formed, because people think there is something to be made out 2119 of it. But when the profit-making element creeps in, the commercial camps, with their capital costs, cannot hope to get down to a price which the working people who are now, for the first time, getting holidays with pay, will be able to afford. Indeed, the voluntary organisations which are not so much concerned about having a surplus at the end of the year's working and which have not to carry necessarily such heavy capital costs find, in present circumstances, it is exceedingly difficult for them to bring the good type of camp holiday within the reach of the working man with a family who is on the £3 a week standard. Therefore, I would like the Secretary of State to encourage some experiments in the direction I have indicated.
It may be said that under the National Fitness scheme, local authorities and other bodies can provide camp facilities, but the introduction of this Bill has created considerable uncertainty among local authorities as to the extent to which they should seek to exercise their powers under the National Fitness scheme. Local authorities create camps primarily for their own citizens. They do not enter the general camp business. A local authority is for practical purposes limited by its own boundaries as to where it has to create demand. It may purchase a camp outside its own boundaries, but its duty is, primarily, to its own citizens, and it has to sustain and keep open its camp over a long period each year in the hope that the camp may be placed on a self-supporting basis. In those circumstances, the proposition that a local authority should establish camps under the National Fitness scheme, however large the contribution from the National Fitness Fund, is still subject to definite limitations.
There is another limitation under the National Fitness scheme, in regard to voluntary organisations. These as a rule can create this type of facility more cheaply than ordinary commercial concerns. They may be, in a real as well as a technical sense, non-profit-making bodies, but they are not eligible for grant to capital expenditure under the National Fitness scheme. Organisations such as the Holiday Fellowship, the Co-operative Holidays Association, the Workers Travel Association and others might render service, but they are pro- 2120 hibited by the terms of the Act. Such capital grant might reduce prices to an easier level for large numbers of workers. Therefore we suggest that experiments under this Bill might be made, and new facilities opened up to the increasing number of men and women who are now, for the first time, receiving holidays with pay.
I am not suggesting that there should be a blind rush to create many facilities of this kind as yet. I know too well, that the workers will only take advantage of these facilities comparatively slowly, because many of them have heavy responsibilities in their own homes at holiday times, and in the precarious conditions in which so many of them live, whatever surplus money they can secure is not available for holiday purposes, even where holidays with pay have been conceded by employers. We cannot, therefore, expect an overwhelming rush of people to take advantage of the limited new facilities which would be created, but I suggest that experiments should be started.
In the construction of these camps special regard should be paid to design. They should be tasteful and not cheap and nasty in their general appearance. If we provide camps for the youngsters and for adults as well, we must have regard to the ordinary amenities of social life. In these holiday camps there should be opportunities for suitable recreation and distractions. Further, I suggest that if possible, the camps should not be limited to working people. I put that point strongly, because the suggestion has been made by an hon. Member that there may be some virtue in organising holidays, through the trade unions, on the basis of industries. I think it better, however, for ordinary folk that when on holidays they should mix with people of diverse social experience. I think that is better all the way round. It makes for better social understanding.
There is available, if the Minister cares to use it, a great fund of good will, experience and knowledge. I hope that good will and expert knowledge will not be brushed aside in the early stages of this scheme. We all know that a number of special bodies have been created for the consideration of this problem. Under the National Council of Social Service a very representative special committee has 2121 been set up and the Industrial Welfare Society has created another very representative organisation. Those bodies have gathered a great deal of useful information and have made very important contacts and are capable of a very substantial contribution to the solution of the problem, especially in the initial stages. In regard to the composition of the company which is to construct, maintain and manage these camps, I must confess that I felt considerably disturbed because of its limited experience. Experience of camp work, and working-class life and of planning holidays and recreational facilities for working people—that kind of experience and the technique which comes from it—are scarcely represented at all in the composition of the company. I suggest that there should be added to this body one or two persons who can bring expert camp knowledge to bear upon its work, such as people who have taken part in the work of the Industrial Welfare Society or the National Council of Social Service. There are other voluntary organisations such as the Holiday Fellowship, the Workers' Travel Association and other non-profit-making bodies with great experience in the planning of facilities of this kind. Even as regards the construction of camps there is experience which could be called upon and there is a technique in handling problems of camp work and overcoming managerial difficulties which ought to be made use of by this body. That type of knowledge and experience does not seem to be represented in any marked degree in the composition of the proposed company as outlined by the Minister. I hope, therefore, that the volume of expert technical knowledge which is available will be called into service in this new experiment.
When the President of the Board of Education was speaking in another place the possibility that the running of these camps might be let out to other people was indicated. I should like to know precisely what was meant by the Minister's statement about power to let out these camps. I see nothing in the Bill about such a power. I do not know whether it means that once the company has decided on a site, they can permit some one from outside to come in and take over the construction and management of the camp. That is a possible way of meeting one of the difficulties to 2122 which I have referred in respect of management. It might be found desirable to have, if you like, some farming out of camps managed by responsible voluntary bodies under certain safeguards. But I would like the Minister who replies to tell me what is the view of the Government on that point. Several other doubts have been raised in my mind which I hope the Minister will remove. Presumably once the company has received the necessary powers it will proceed with its work and cease to be accountable to anyone. I share the view which has been expressed this evening that if the good will of the Government is behind this very important scheme of national social development, there should be more responsibility in this House with regard to the success of the experiment. It would, of course, be fatal for the House to interfere in the detailed management of the camps or attempt to supervise the detailed work of such a company, but it would be of importance and value to have periodical reports on its work, and some check upon its finances should be exercised by the Government.
I hope also that the utmost care of local amenities will be taken in the construction of the camps. Much has been said about the use of standardised units in the construction of the camps. It may be that they will be very simply constructed, but I speak from my own experience when I point out that no two camp sites are exactly alike. Each of them presents its own special problem and often you have to adapt your design in order that the camp shall nestle into its environment. I hope that full regard will be paid to the kind of design that is adopted and that we shall not see standardised sets appearing on the 50 sites selected, but that each camp will have its own natural charm because of the way in which it settles into its environment. I hope that under Clause 3 the company will not behave at any time in such a way as to have complete disregard of the local authorities in respect of town planning. If the amenities of the countryside are to be preserved, some regard must be paid to the efforts which certain local authorities have been making in trying to preserve open spaces, and that areas are not cluttered with buildings and the natural beauties of the district destroyed.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
Is not the position quite the opposite. It says that no provision under the Town Planning Act shall apply to land so acquired unless the Minister proposes otherwise.
Mr. Creech Jones
The first Sub-section says that no building restrictions under any Act shall apply except in so far as the Minister may direct. I took that to give comprehensive powers in the Bill, so that the company may recommend the brushing away of local restrictions so far as building is concerned. I may not, of course, be accurate in that.
I should like to be assured as to the relation of this scheme to the National Fitness scheme. The Ministry of Health has taken an enormous interest, which we all welcome, in this type of development. The circulars that the Minister has issued and the reports that have been published show very considerable social responsibility so far as the development of amenities and the development of healthful exercise is concerned. One welcomes therefore this further stage in the development of healthier social life. It has been described as a contribution to National Defence but it is an important contribution to the social well-being of the nation. I hope we shall regard this as merely one stage in the development of a very important national scheme and that before long the Minister will be asking for increased borrowing powers in order that the company may carry on still further the very important work which is being inaugurated to-day.
§ 7.34 p.m.
I am very glad that the Government have introduced this Bill to begin the erection of permanent camps that will serve the dual purpose of acting as school camps in time of peace and accommodate refugee school children, in the event of war, from areas which have to be evacuated. For both purposes these camps should prove admirable. I purposely use the expression that they are beginning to provide them because the provision of 50 camps to accommodate some 17,500 children seems to me to be touching only the fringe of the problem. I approve entirely of their use for the school population and I should like to see that use extended. But I think more camps should be provided for evacuation purposes pure and simple, though I realise that, if an emergency comes along 2124 in the immediate future, reliance will have to be entirely on billeting, and billeting will be the main source of accommodation for refugees for some considerable time to come. I quite appreciate that, as these camps are erected, the controlling company will get very much valuable experience and will probably be able to effect improvements in design and also economies in cost. Therefore I think 50 is a reasonable number with which to make a start, but I hope that, as soon as these 50 have been completed, my right hon. Friend will take powers to build more. That is my first point. I want more camps.
Next, I should like to compare the cost per place in these camps (which is £57, dividing £1,000,000 by the 17,500 inmates) with the cost per place of secondary schools in Hampshire. My right hon. Friend did not go into details as to the materials of which the camps will be built, though he said they would have to be built quickly, and so we realise that they will have to be built of light material, corrugated iron or wood, lined with "Masonite" or some other suitable inner skin, and a four-inch air space probably filled with fibre. In Norway they use moss for the purpose. I expect the equipment will be simple, though I hope it will be adequate. In Hampshire., and in most other counties, our secondary schools are comparatively handsome buildings, solidly built of brick, as indeed is the requirement of the Board of Education. The last seven that we have built worked out at from £51 to £66 per place, only two of the seven went over the £60 mark. They average £58 10s. a place, which is practically the same as the figure that these camps are going to cost. It seems to me, therefore, that the cost is out of proportion when you take into consideration the difference in the building material which will be used. I think the comparison shows that the estimates for these camps have been on a fairly generous scale, even though as regards secondary schools, I have left out of my figure the cost of the site. The sites in the case of schools are expensive because they are either in or very near large centres of population, and these camp sites should be cheaper. In passing, I hope when they are buying the sites that they will buy enough land.
I have always believed that these camps should be well removed from the large 2125 centres of population, well out into the country, if they are to serve the purpose both of giving the children a healthy place to go to and a real change of air in time of peace and safety in time of war. I was, therefore, a little anxious when my right hon. Friend said he wanted them near these larger centres. He went on to say that they should not be nearer perhaps than 30 miles and, if 30 miles is regarded not too rigorously but as a minimum, it will be quite all right, but otherwise it is only adding to the danger to keep them close to the towns. As regards water and electricity supply, which was no doubt in the Minister's mind when he wanted them fairly near large centres, we must remember that the pipe lines for water and the main electric lines cover rural England pretty freely. I hope that secluded sites will be found, well surrounded by trees, so that the beauties of the countryside may not be affected. That ought to be possible, because my right hon. Friend spoke of buying in some cases country houses with parks round them. I am glad that he has thought of that. Often when you are buying a park of that sort you. get a house thrown in with it, and that would afford admirable accommodation for headquarters or for dining rooms or class rooms, or what not.
I have every confidence in the Noble Lord who is being given the job of providing these camps. His ability is very great and his industry is infinite. I am sure he will see that we get value for the money that is going to be spent. I believe that confidence in the Noble Lord is shared by the many Members opposite who have experience of what he has done in the Special Area of South Wales. I certainly wish him and his committee all possible success and I hope he will adopt as his motto," More camps for the same money." If anyone wants expedition,. he could not get a better man to get a move on than Lord Portal. I suggest that these camps should be built of units to accommodate 80 to 100 inmates. That will facilitate administration and certainly help discipline when you have a lot of children, and it will make it possible to provide really separate accommodation for boys and girls. If they are built in units it makes it easier to let them as summer camps if the controlling company desires to do so, and I hope that when the next lot of camps are before the House that 2126 point of view will be very much kept in mind.
I differ completely, as regards Clause 4, from the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker-Smith), and I hope he did not persuade the Minister of Health that his view was correct. I utterly fail to see how giving new work to unemployed men is going to put employed men out of work. I thought that a tremendous fallacy, and I do not think I misunderstood him. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having introduced this Clause, which enables the Unemployment Assistance Board to arrange to get unemployed men used for building these camps and so to contribute to the extra cost, if extra cost there be. It would be not only of immediate value to the men who get the jobs but, by putting them in touch with employers and contractors, it should give them a good chance of getting future work when the temporary job is over and the camps are finished.
§ 7.44 p.m.
I rise only to draw attention to the great urgency of the matter of building these camps. Although I agree with everyone else who has spoken, and with practically every one in the country, as to the desirability of having camps to which children should go for holidays, that is not the reason why these camps are being brought into existence, and I think we ought to concentrate more on the use of these camps as places for the evacuation of school children. When you look at them from that point of view and calculate that the total number of the camps is 50 and the total number of children they would accommodate is only 17,500, it becomes an almost insignificant contribution to the situation. I do not think that the Government even now realise the urgency of this problem. They never have realised it. I have been looking up some of the speeches which were made at the beginning of these discussions when the Air Raid Precautions Bill was introduced in November, and I find that in the Committee Debates on 25th November the Home Secretary devoted considerable effort to combating an Amendment moved from this side of the House to make the duty of drawing up schemes of evacuation one of the duties laid on the Minister and on local authorities under the Bill. The Home Secretary resisted that Amendment and said that to put it in as an express provision in the Bill that every 2127 scheme has to include within its scope evacuation was not the right method. Then again:Putting evacuation in by name would run counter to that method …that is, the method of confiding air raid precaution organisations to the local authorities—and to pick out one particular problem to that extent would diminish the importance of the other items that we intend to be included in it." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1938; col. 1446, Vol. 329.]As a matter of fact that Amendment was supported, I think, by every speaker who rose in the House afterwards on the Conservative side, on the Labour side, and on the Liberal side, and I believe the hon. Gentleman who represents the whole of the Communist party in this House also supported it. As I had the honour to move that Amendment the discussion naturally remains very fresh in my mind. The Home Secretary, in resisting that proposal, put up a large number of specious arguments to show that my contention as to the importance of evacuation was incorrect, and it was the good sense of the House as a whole which overbore the Home Secretary's point of view and insisted on that Amendment being in substance accepted, and in a Clause being added to the Bill.
On this occasion, too, I think the Government do not realise the extreme urgency of this question. I listened carefully to the Minister, but I do not think that he said how soon these 50 camps were to be erected. Are they to be erected in the next three months? He did say that the 50 camps were a beginning. How many more is it proposed to build? I agree you must begin somewhere, and 50, even although they accommodate only 17,500 children—a mere flea-bite even for one great city in this country —is a beginning; and if the camps prove in practice to be successful, that is to say, if they can be properly organised, if the companies work all right, and if the materials can be selected, it will be a useful beginning. But it is a very small beginning. It is only one little seed planted in the ground, and we must have a very quick growth if these camps are to be of any use for dealing with the evacuation situation.
What means of expansion does the Minister propose, apart from the building 2128 of more camps in different parts of the country? I rise not only to make criticisms, but also to make what I hope he will regard as constructive suggestions. I put it to him that the trouble with evacuation camps will be the provision, first, of water supply, which he mentioned; second, of sanitary accommodation; and, third, of cooking accommodation. There is no reason at all why, if you provide a camp which would hold, say 350 children, you should not easily arrange for the water supply, the sanitary accommodation and the cooking accommodation to be planned on such a scale that they could be used, with very little adaptation, to deal with 10 times that number, and you could then add to your central nucleus of a permanent camp a camp under canvas.
I suggest that you might do more than that. You might actually go to certain areas, let us say some of the central parts of Wales. A place I have in mind is Llandrindod Wells, which was used in times of greater prosperity very largely by the mining population of South Wales as a health resort, and which has a very large number of places which are adapted for the entertainment of visitors. You might take the whole of the township, and use it as the headquarters of a big evacuation area and construct all round about it a place which will take many thousands of children. You ought to plan on a big scale. You might go to some places in Wales or in Scotland, or even, I venture to suggest, in Ireland, if arrangements could be made to do that, and put down the basic water supply, the sanitary arrangements and cooking arrangements, without any permanent buildings at all excepting perhaps store sheds, with the idea of providing a nucleus which you could rapidly expand into a camp if the necessity arose, which could be used either for children or adults.
I do not want to be too sarcastic about it, but may I suggest to the Minister that he read again a report on the evacuation of civilian population in case of air attack which was produced some time ago, the chairman of the committee being the Lord Privy Seal, and the three other humble members being a Member for a London division who sits on the Ministerial side of the House, the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and myself. In that report we fixed upon certain figures as the number of the popula- 2129 tion which it was likely would have to be evacuated, and I venture to think now that every day that goes by increases the probability of that figure having to be very greatly increased. The numbers there indicated, therefore, must not be taken as maximum but as minimum numbers.
I want to ask the Minister of Health if he is quite sure that the arrangements being made for the evacuation of adults are really adequate, because on the success of the evacuation organisation, as is now agreed, it is quite possible that the issue of a war might to a large extent depend, at any rate at the beginning. The camps should be built very much more quickly, and you should have an organisation which could rapidly expand. I will not say that I dislike this camp scheme, but I must say that I have got a little bit impatient with some of the discussion this afternoon, when hon. Members have talked about the advantages of camps for school children—a thing on which everyone agrees—whereas we are really in face of what may be a terrible calamity, and these camps ought to be used to help in providing the accommodation for evacuated children if the calamity comes upon us.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Roland Robinson
When the Government's camp policy was first announced by the Lord Privy Seal it was put forward as a contribution to the civil defence problem, and therefore, being intended for a national emergency, it was approached from a very sympathetic point of view by all Members of the House. I feel, however, with the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) that the evacuation side of it has been overlooked to-day. The hon. Member was right in pointing that out, and the necessity of these camps must first and foremost be judged from the point of view of their use for evacuation. They are intended, I take it, primarily for the evacuation of children, but I find myself in a real difficulty in connection with that, because when evacuation was discussed in this House on 2nd March the Minister of Health himself said that the problem of the evacuation of school children was solved by billeting. The Minister, after a very careful survey of the work which has been done with regard to billeting, said: 2130we may say that in two months the householders of the country have, without compulsion, enabled us to say that the most difficult part of the problem, the housing of unaccompanied school children, is solved." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1939; col. 1527, Vol. 344.]
§ Mr. Robinson
The Minister says "Hear, hear." If the problem has been solved by billeting I fail to understand why he comes to the House at a later date and says that in order to help the solution of the problem we need these camps as well. I hope that when a reply is made to this Debate somebody on behalf of the Ministry will tell us whether that statement, or that forecast, was borne out when the complete results of the survey were obtained.
§ Mr. Robinson
I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman is able to make that statement, because it speaks well for the patriotism of the householders of this country. But it more than confirms my doubt whether the Government are wise in spending this money in providing additional accommodation which, according to the Minister's forecast, will not be needed. It is a great deal of money we are spending— £1,200,000. In these days of national emergency, when the money required for rearmament is so vast, it is our duty to see that the money is spent in the wisest possible way in order to meet an emergency. I was surprised, too, seeing that it is primarily an evacuation problem, that nobody so far has raised the question as to whether it would not be wiser to have a greater dispersal, rather than a concentration, of children in a number of camps. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) spoke of the horrors that would take place in war. I agree with him, but surely if you concentrate your children in one spot it is an extra objective to the enemy. One would have thought it was better to arrange for billeting children in farmhouses in as many small units as possible, spread all over the country.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I greatly doubt whether there are enough farmhouses to go round. If these camps are camouflaged as they ought to be, it will be impossible for hostile aircraft to sight them.
§ Mr. Robinson
I cannot agree entirely with the hon. Member. I do not mean that the whole problem can be solved by the use of farmhouses, but there are all sorts of places all over the country which can be used. There is one thing that has worried me and many other people. Is not this proposal being pressed on to the Government by a lot of people who want camps established for some reason other than evacuation? Other reasons than evacuation seem to have interested hon. Members. They want something else. They want some scheme of their own. I am profoundly disturbed by the views taken by a large number of Members, principally in the Opposition. The hon. Member for Derby was one of them. He said he looked forward to the time when we should have State camps for State holidays for people who are getting holidays with pay under the legislation which has recently been introduced. I would take a strong and firm stand against that. I do not believe that the holiday industry or any other industry should be faced with competition from Government sources. I am well aware that hon. Members on the other side are in favour of that competition. If they had their way they would have State competition in every industry. On behalf of an industry which I can fairly claim to represent, I can say that we will strongly resist it. I am surprised that some hon. Members on my side of the House should have fallen into the trap. If it were any other industry in which they were interested, whether railways or iron and steel or aircraft, they would strongly oppose it.
§ Mr. Robinson
I am speaking for the small man engaged in the hotel industry and in apartment and boarding houses. They are an important part of the holiday industry. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), in kind and soothing tones, to say that if we had these State camps they would do good by advertising holidays. In another sphere he reminded me very much of Hitler. When he walked into Czecho-Slovakia and took over the country and put its people into concentration camps, he said it was all for their good. When the Government walk in and set up State competition to the 2132 holiday industry the hon. Member says that it is very good for us. Before the principle of the camps is extended I urge the Minister to take a careful survey of the accommodation which is already offered by the holiday industry. I understand that a fairly comprehensive survey of the holiday problem is being made by the Industrial Welfare Society. I am sure that if they examine this problem carefully they will find that by the proper spread-over of holidays and the normal development of the industry we shall be able to meet the demands of all who come for holidays. It has never yet been said that there is a shortage of holiday accommodation in this country. The demand has been well met in the past. The accommodation is expanding, and as the hon. Member for Derby said, there are growing up camps and chalets and other things which are designed to meet the requirements of people with the smallest purses.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I said exactly the opposite, and that the commercial camps cannot meet the needs of the lower-paid manual workers. That is why we want holiday camps on a Government basis.
§ Mr. Robinson
The commercial camps are being built with the intention of meeting the needs of the lower-paid workers, and the fact that they are being erected shows that the industry by its normal expansion is trying to meet the demands made upon it. It should be given a chance to do it before State competition is allowed to come in. When camps are built they are all subject to restrictions and to the supervisory powers of the local authorities. We are a little unwise in saying that the camps to be built under this scheme should be exempt from those restrictions, the purpose of which is to see that the sanitation and health conditions of the visitors are property looked after. When the Government build camps they should be subject to the same regulations with regard to health and sanitation. I appeal to the Minister to say frankly whether the present proposal is intended to be competitive with the holiday industry. In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill it is made clear that the peace-time purpose of these camps is that they should be used as school camps. No one would quarrel with that, for we would welcome every 2133 effort to provide holidays for the poorer school children who could not get them in any other way. We would willingly agree to co-operate with the Government in that direction.
§ Mr. Robinson
I think that hon. Members on the other side are well aware that I am putting the case from the point of view of the small man who is catering for the holiday industry. It would be wiser if the Minister could incorporate in the Bill the statement which appears in the Explanatory Memorandum that the camps are intended in peace time as school camps. The Explanatory Memorandum is in no way binding, and when the Bill becomes an Act it disappears, and none of the intentions which appear in it are of any use. I see no reason why there should not be incorporated in the Bill the purpose for which these camps are to be used. I appeal to the Minister to meet this case if he can, because there are many of us who are very eager to co-operate with him in every way.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I am not going into the new controversy which has arisen as to whether we should approach this Bill from the point of view of war or of peace time. I shall devote myself largely to putting a series of questions to the Minister. I am somewhat disappointed that, notwithstanding the fact that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill stressed the health value of these camps, we are told in the Explanatory Memorandum that some reasonable contribution will be made by those who use them in peace time. I am here as a representative of a large number of unemployed people, many of whom have been unemployed for a large number of years. They have no hope, nor have their children, of taking advantage of any health-giving possibilities that these camps may have, because any contribution imposed on people who make use of the camps will be entirely outside their reach. I notice that the unemployed may be used in the building of the camps. Subject to my being assured that certain misapprehensions which I and others are compelled to entertain are not justified, we appreciate the possibility of certain unemployed being put to this work. It is one of the ironical consequences of 2134 poverty that the will to work and the skill of impoverished people may be utilised to build camps of this kind, and that there is not the remotest possibility of their ever enjoying the work of their hands and the product of their skill.
I am compelled to put a number of questions first, with regard to Clause 4, because considerable apprehensions are felt with respect to it. Instead of elaborating the suspicions which I and others have, it will be best if I put a few questions to the Minister. Is there any possibility of the trainees being engaged on productive work in return for an Unemployment Assistance Board allowance, or possibly a little more than that allowance? Will the trainee be entitled to notice of dismissal and will he be under a definite contract of service? Will the trainee be protected by the Workmen's Compensation Act? Will he be entitled to pay National Health and Unemployment Insurance contributions while working? Will an unemployed married man be assisted financially to remove his family to the place where work at these camps is offered to him?
I want to be absolutely satisfied that there is not the remotest intention of using any forced labour, through the instrumentality of the Unemployment Assistance Board, in putting up these camps. I have also one or two questions to put regarding Clause 3. Will the companies who will be constructing these camps be compelled to have regard to existing regulations affecting building, drainage, roads, etc., and why should it not be obligatory upon them to submit their plans and specifications to the local authorities? My last question is to ask whether the Minister is in a position to tell us to-night whether any of these camps are to be built in Wales, and, if the answer be in the affirmative, can he tell us how many out of the 50 will be in Wales?
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
In a few words I want to express warm appreciation of this Bill, so far as it goes, and warm appreciation in particular of Clause 4. That Clause seems to possess potentialities of enormous value for those who have been long unemployed. It extends the recognition of the principle that in many cases those who have been long unemployed may not be able to return into the industrial field unless they receive at the outset some 2135 form of preference. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) has asked some pertinent questions of fact relating to the operation of Clause 4, and I wish to ask one question of policy. So far as I understand Section 37 of the Unemployment Act, 1934, which is applied by this Clause, it will be possible for the Unemployment Assistance Board to make contributions, by way as it were of subsidy, in respect of applicants to the Board who are taken into the employment of these recognised camp companies for a period of three months and no more. I am bound to express some doubt whether in all cases a period of three months employment will be wholly sufficient to render a man who has been long unemployed fully able again to take his place in industry. In many cases three months would be amply sufficient, but I cannot help wondering whether it may not be inadequate in a number of other cases. I conceive that it would be out of order to move an Amendment in Committee to extend that period of three months, because it would probably be regarded as increasing the charge, but I should be grateful if the Minister would most carefully consider whether in practice that period of three months will suffice. I think it would be lamented by the whole House if it were found later that men had to be discharged at the end of three months because they were still not able to do a full day's work on competitive terms and the Unemployment Assistance Board could no longer supply any subsidy in respect of their employment.
§ 8.19 p.m.
I should like to add my congratulations to the Government for having introduced this Bill, but coupled with a regret that they have not seen fit to make it a good deal more comprehensive in order to meet the urgent needs of the nation both in peace and in war. I look upon the Bill as a contribution towards the solution of a threefold problem; first, the providing of camps for school children in connection with a general education system; secondly, the providing of holiday opportunities for those lower-paid workers who are unable to avail themselves of other holiday facilities; and, lastly—the problem which in my opinion is at the moment the most urgent—airraid precautions. I regretted very much to hear the speech of the hon. Member 2136 for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson). One realised, of course, that he has a particular class of constituents who may be apprehensive, but I think that both he and they are under a misapprehension. I remember very well when I was Member for Whitehaven going down to his constituency with one of the many excursions to Blackpool. Men and women had been putting away pennies, three pences and sixpences for many months in order to be able to enjoy just one day at the seaside. It was all they could do having regard to the cost of even a short excursion to Blackpool. The workers want something better than that. They are now to have the opportunity of a week's, or possibly 10 days', holiday with pay, and require some cheaper form of accommodation, but I do not think that what is being done in this Bill will in the least degree affect the constituents of the hon. Member. It may, on the contrary, assist them in the long run. Therefore, I regret the somewhat discordant note which he introduced into the Debate, because it is clear that there are hon. Members on his side of the House who are far more enlightened than he is in regard to this matter.
The principle of having a non-profit-making company for the purpose of working these camps is an entirely right one. There have been people who have made considerable fortunes by providing camps, but not of the type that would solve the problem of those who are now looking forward to having holidays with pay. Many of the camps which have sprung up have become eyesores round our coasts and in the countryside. This Bill does not appear to give any control over the type of buildings to be put up, and, indeed, Clause 3 seems to indicate that there will be less control than now exists, because these companies are to be free from any kind of control by the local authorities over the type of buildings. It may be undesirable to make them dependent upon the ideas of a particular local authority, but I should like to see some more definite control from the Ministry of Health over the type of buildings.
If Clause 3 is going to relieve local authorities of any responsibility I think the Minister ought to take some responsibility in its place. I remember accompanying a deputation to the present Secretary of State for Air, when he was 2137 Minister of Health, with the object of seeing what could be done to induce local authorities to consult panels of architects so as to control the type of buildings going up in the rural areas. I remember that the Minister of Health then expressed his opinion that such panels of architects should be set up to control such things. I think that the Minister of Health to-day should see that that kind of control is made operative. Even if these buildings are to be made mainly of timber, as I think, on the whole, they should be, seeing that it is not desirable that they should be permanent, owing to possible future development, it is possible to make beautiful timber buildings in keeping with the surroundings of the country by using certain colours and designs. I should like to have from the Minister an indication that that will be done. We do not want these publicly-owned camps to be in the least degree an eyesore on the countryside.
The question of sites has to be considered and we come to the really serious question of the use of these camps in an emergency. The Minister said, I understand, something in regard to London and big cities generally and was not in favour of having the camps more than 30 miles away from such centres. I believe he was then speaking entirely from the point of view of the use of these camps as schools, but was he altogether right, if he was considering the camps from the point of view of air raids? I have my doubts whether it is desirable to do so, if you are going to evacuate a portion of the population of London into the camps. Probably you should go considerably further than 30 miles from London. Surely London is within the danger zone. Such camps might become targets in themselves. I admit that camouflage is possible, but it ought to be supported and supplemented by greater dispersement. A wiser policy is to get as far away from the danger centres as is reasonably possible.
Our evacuation policy ought to have two things in view. There should be dispersal of a section of the population from the danger zones, of those who need not remain, into the rural areas, but that is not enough. It is not possible for a village population to absorb the possible number of evacuated persons who might want to come there from the larger areas. This surplus we may have to accommo- 2138 date with the camps, and we therefore must keep those two things in view. I agree that one does not want to go too far away from the centres if one is constructing camps for school children, but if one is considering the possibility of air-raid precautions one must consider dispersal into areas where they will not be targets. When the Minister made that remark about the camps being 30 miles from London he was not considering that point sufficiently.
In this matter my own constituency, the Forest of Dean, is very much affected. Parts of Gloucestershire have become targets because of the erection of munition works and aerodromes, and despite the efforts of many persons in my constituency, including myself, we have not been successful in getting any of those industries to go into the area of the Forest of Dean itself. Consequently the Forest of Dean has little industry which is of a permanent and stable kind. We have new vulnerable areas springing up in Gloucestershire, but the Forest of Dean remains an area to which evacuation could very well take place. It has secluded, wooded valleys, offering admirable opportunities for these camps, to which people from the danger zones might be able to go. I believe there would be a good moral effect if the civil population knew that there was a place in the Forest of Dean to which they could go in the event of an emergency, and I suggest that that is a matter which might be considered.
The landowner in the Forest of Dean is the Forestry Commission, which is now considering making the Forest into a national forest park and is preparing sites for holiday-makers and tourists. Perhaps the Minister can tell me how the Bill will effect that position. Is the Forestry Commission to remain the authority which will provide these camps or is it to be superseded by this public utility company set up under the Bill? I should really like to know the answer, because the matter vitally affects my constituency.
I repeat that the camps ought to be sheltered against air raids and should be conceived on a very much wider scale than that envisaged in the Bill. We can defeat a possible enemy in the emergency of war by seeing that that portion of our civil population which is displaced need not remain in vulnerable areas but goes 2139 into districts where the people will be protected. Because the Bill provides nothing like the amount of protection for which one would have hoped, in view of the urgency and the danger in the international situation. I am very sorry to say that it does not make more than a small contribution in the desired direction.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
Like many other Members I am struck forcibly by the insufficiency and the inadequacy of the Bill. I shall not weary the House by retailing all the defects of which we have heard from various speakers, but I would point out that, as the total accommodation to be provided is for fewer than 20,000 people, this scheme seems to be playing with the problem of evacuation and of school camps. The Government have been a long time in starting on this matter. I read a letter in the "Times" of 14th February in which the writer pointed out that he had sent a proposal at the beginning of October and was wondering what had happened to it. He sent it six months ago, suggesting that the situation of these camps ought to be on the seaboard in Wales, Cumberland, Scotland and the North-East coast.
I got up primarily to stake out a claim for some of these camps to be put in South-West Durham. I know that when the name "Durham" is used people have all sorts of visions and pictures of big pit heaps and grimy mining villages, but I say here and now that there are no finer districts than the Durham dales. Teesdale and Weardale are there, secluded, affording safe spots for camps —so secluded that some parts of them have not yet been supplied with any gas masks at all, which is an indication that the Government themselves recognise that these are invulnerable areas. If these areas are so invulnerable, that constitutes a strong claim in favour of the placing of camps there. The primary use of these camps will, of course, be for evacuation; at least, that is my opinion, for I do not think the Government would have thought of school camps at all but for the question of safety during an emergency. Not only will they be useful, however, in times of emergency, but they will be useful in peace-time as adjuncts to our educational system.
I can remember, in my early days as a teacher, taking my class of boys out- 2140 side because I thought I could teach them better in the open air. One day His Majesty's Inspector of Schools came, and found that I was missing from my classroom. In those days it was considered almost a crime to be outside the school during school hours, and I got a good wigging from my head teacher. I am glad to have lived to a day when it is recognised that outdoor teaching is just as important as indoor teaching. Open-air schools, nursery schools, school journeys and the like have shown the value of taking boys and girls outside the precincts of some of the miserable schools they have to attend, and broadening their minds away from the desks, and the inkwells, and the blackboards. I believe all Members of the House agree that the contact with nature that will come from school camps will widen the intellect and give the children a new outlook on life to a degree that will be of very great benefit to them from the educational point of view; while from the health point of view it is well known that boys and girls who are allowed to get away from industrial centres to beautiful parts of the country grow, not only in physique, but also in mind. We believe that there is much poetry to be learned from close contact with Nature, and the poetry of Nature cannot be learned if boys and girls have the opportunity of reading it only in books.
In South-West Durham we have local authorities that can hardly make ends meet owing to the low rateable value of their districts and the high scale of unemployment. I have had letters, and I believe the Minister has had letters, from the Barnard Castle Urban District Council, the Barnard Castle Rural District Council, the Weardale Rural District Council, and the Middleton-in-Teesdale local authority, all trying to impress upon the Minister the suitability of these areas for school or holiday camps. I consider that these places ought to be the first of those chosen in the North-Eastern part of this country for such camps, in order to enable the local authorities to improve their position and also to give work to people who are unemployed in those wild parts of the country. I admit that their numbers are not very large, but they are sufficient to cause the Government and these local authorities much concern. A leading article in the "Times" of 9th February this year mentioned that these 2141 sites ought to be somewhere near the Special Areas. It said:It may be pointed out that many suitable sites can be found in close proximity to areas (such as the Durham coalfields), where unemployment is heaviest.I believe that if these school camps, or holiday camps—call them what you will— were instituted in Wales and in the North-East of England, where there is safety first and where safety can be combined with beauty, it would go a long way to make them places of attraction and places of good will.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones
The House on the whole has indicated its approval of the principles of this Bill, and, so far as these camps are intended to be school camps in peace time and camps for the reception of evacuees in war time, I certainly endorse that view. I agree, however, with my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) that we who represent seaside resorts have some apprehension as regards the definition laid down in the explanatory memorandum attached to the Bill. We should have liked the Minister to be able to incorporate in the Bill a clear indication that the camps will be utilised for the purposes for which we are now given to understand they are intended. After all, my hon. Friend was only speaking for a class of people in his constituency for whom he has every right to speak. Some hon. Gentlemen on the other side seemed inclined to think he was speaking in a self-interested way, but he was only speaking, as I myself am speaking, as representing a class of people, of whom there are many in my own constituency, who in recent years have been very hardly hit by changes in fashions and in the ways in which holidays are taken, due to the advent of the motor car and so forth. They are people who in a small way have contributed materially in the past to the amenities and health which the seaside resorts afford to large classes of the population on their very hardly earned holidays. These people are apprehensive lest, as a result of our somewhat rapid tendency to become a socialised State, their future livelihood may be jeopardised by the substitution, for the amenities and atmosphere of home life, of these camps all over the country.
From the amenity point of view I must point out, as representing a constituency on the North Wales coast—one of the 2142 most beautiful coasts of the British Isles—that a large number of these camps dotted along the coast will not contribute to the amenities of the seaside. People who have built property in such places, with the idea of living there for the benefit of their health and in the evening of their days, are naturally somewhat apprehensive when they see a tendency towards the occupation of the land by a system of camps, and I am also a little alarmed by the changes in the user of the land of this country. We see more and more agricultural land taken for the widening of roads, for increasing the number of roads, and, by the Royal Air Force, the Army and the Territorials, for military purposes, at a time when already an immense acreage of our land is going out of cultivation. If it is the tendency, as obviously it is, more and more to occupy large areas of the diminishing land of this country, it is most important that agricultural processes should be intensified in the remaining areas. Having said that, I will agree that there is an area in North Wales which would welcome these camps. I refer to the valleys and hinterland of Wales. In the mountains the camps could be well placed, from an amenity point of view; the children would get the benefit of the mountain air in the summer; and the camps would be well protected from enemy attack, not only because of the difficulty of spotting them but because, owing to the currents of air, it is not easy to fly over the mountains. There is no question that, within easy range of the big cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, there are possibilities for the camps, and I hope the Department of Health will take notice of that area. I make no apology for having mentioned it. I think I am speaking for the nation as a whole in mentioning that area. On the whole, we approve of the Bill, and we hope it will be used for the purposes of which we have been given an indication.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) has divided his speech into two parts. In most of it he expressed his disapproval of the idea if the camps are to be too near Colwyn Bay, but if they are to be near the south of his constituency he thinks that, if there is not too much of them, it is going to be a good thing. One must regret that there is not going to be a Division on this 2143 Bill, because one would like to know whether the interests of the north or the south of his constituency would guide his feet.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member's support was extremely well camouflaged. If the huts are as well camouflaged as his support, no German aeroplane will ever discover them. I regret the smallness of the Measure. I had the pleasure of taking the Minister of Health around my constituency the other afternoon. He was able to see quite enough, I am sure, to convince him that if Gateshead is to be evacuated, South Shields will have to be evacuated first. The whole of the accommodation proposed under this Bill would not be sufficient to accommodate the elementary school children in my constituency. The Minister talked about some of the people living in London boroughs at the rate of 80,000 to the square mile, but in one ward of my constituency people live 90,000 to the square mile. On 342 acres comprising six wards in the borough that I represent, 40,000 people live. In that part of the borough there is no a single house or tenement that has a back yard big enough to put up one of these steel shelters—and we are called a neutral area. It is quite clear that if the Government do not evacuate a constituency like that, the people will. At the mouth of the Tyne—and after all, if the enemy can block up the mouth of the Tyne all the great shipyards on the Tyne are immobilised—a constituency with housing conditions such as that is clearly a place that must be evacuated, and up to the present the Minister has not allowed for evacuating a single person from that area. That is some measure of the inadequacy of the Government's proposal. We could fill up the whole of the 17,500 places provided by this Bill with elementary school children and their teachers alone.
It is clear, I think, that this Bill, in spite of what the hon. Member for Denbigh has said, can be only the beginning of the policy that was introduced to the House by the Minister this afternoon, because it may be very well in North "Wales to think that these dangers are remote, and may be settled on the basis of the boarding-house keepers' interests, 2144 but if you are on the North-East Coast, in Yarmouth or Lowestoft, in the East End of London, or in any of the great ports of the country, the problem presents a very different perspective. Do not let us forget that if there are German or other enemy air bases in North Spain, they are nearer to the Western ports than the present German air bases are to the east coast of England. That presents, as a result of the policy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, a fresh difficulty, which the country will have to face in connection with this question of the dispersal of the population in the event of war. A good deal of the country that is regarded as inaccessible to aeroplanes approaching from the east may now have to be regarded as accessible to aeroplanes approaching from the south.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member must not go too far. The general dispersal of population hardly comes within the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
I will not follow the subject. I was using it only to show that the figures given in this Bill might easily prove inadequate. I hope that the number to be gathered into any of the camps will not be as large as 350. My idea of an open-air holiday is not being marched in procession with 300 or 400 other people along the countryside. I do not think that, from the point of view of education, very much is gained by that, The best form of camp is the small camp of not more than 50 children where you have two or three teachers and two or three helpers, and in those camps you can attend to the reaction of the individual child to the rural environment. Every urban child who goes away to camp does not go into raptures over the experience that he has, during the first day of two at any rate. It is generally as well, if you can arrange it in your school camp party, to have a stiffening of veterans who have been to one or two previous camps to give the newcomers some of the spirit that the open-air life requires.
From the point of view of dealing with an evacuated population, small huts, scattered about, are a great deal better than groups of huts placed close together. I object to the barrack school, and I should very much dislike the barrack camp for children. The best thing to do 2145 in a village is not to put 350 children in a block—if anything goes wrong in the village the children from the camp, who will be nobody's children as far as the locality is concerned, will get the blame for it—but to try to place one hut for not more than 50 children near a farmhouse or a group of labourers' cottages. If you have five, six or seven such huts scattered about in a parish you can have a central administrative block in the village hall, or the village school, or in some central position at which all the administrative work which must be done centrally can be done. Each of the groups of inhabitants near whom these children are stationed will find it possible to take the children to their hearts and make them part of the life of the district.
If we are envisaging a long-term evacuation policy—and I understand that that is certainly not ruled out by the Minister of Health and the Lord Privy Seal—it is essential that these children should have some chance of being associated with the social life of the district into which they are evacuated. We do not want to see these camps turned into the old type of Poor Law school with no contact with anybody except the people in the school, isolated group by group, with none of the spirit of the school but all the spirit of the gang in them. We ought not to regard them as Ishmaels. There is nobody who has had the task of taking the children who have been in a Poor Law school of that kind and has tried to bring them into the ordinary educational life of the district, who does not know the tremendous difficulty in breaking down the gang spirit that grows up inside these barrack institutions. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not confine himself to these blocks of camps of about 350 children, but that a geniune effort will be made to get real dispersal. I am quite sure that it will be easier to hide 350 children, broken up into six or seven groups of the kind I have described in time of war, than it will be if they are in camps, no matter how much you may try artificial camouflage. Near most farms or groups of labourers cottages you will find a group of trees under which a hut or whatever accommodation you have for them can easily be hidden.
I have pressed this view, on behalf of the County Councils Association, on the Lord Privy Seal and on the Minister of 2146 Health, and if I get a chance of pressing it on any other Minister I shall try it on him too. The policy which I have advocated in this matter has the unanimous approval of the Executive Council of the County Councils Association, and I am very glad that Dr. Gurney-Dixon, Chairman of the Education Committee of the County Councils Association, is a member of the board of management of this company, because I am sure he will do something to see that this particular policy is carried out.
I am not quite clear how these school camps are to be financed before an emergency. The board of management get from the Government a loan which they have to repay over 20 years, and presumably they are going to get then-income from the local education authorities who send their children to the camp. I cannot think of any other way in which they are to get income. Will the expenditure of the local education authorities on this matter rank for grant, and, if so, on what percentage? Is this to be expenditure on which the local authorities will get 20 per cent., or is it to be on some higher basis? That is a matter upon which the Government should be prepared to give the House some information to-night. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education is sitting on the Government Front Bench. I do not know what arrangements there are for education grants in Scotland, but I hope that whoever is to reply will be able to say what the percentage of grant is to be on the expenditure that local authorities incur in this matter.
I should also like to ask about the central administration of these camps in peace-time. It is clear that if you are to have a camp with as large a number as 350 children you will be obliged to have some medical services on the spot. I imagine that these camps will not be occupied continuously by children from the area of one local education authority. Let us assume one for the county of Durham. I imagine that some children will come from the Durham County Council area, others from Gateshead, Sunderland, South Shields. Then there are Jarrow, Hebburn, Felling, and the Part III authorities, and we must not exclude their children from the advantages of these camps. If you are to have each group of children bringing their own medical staff with them there will be a 2147 great deal of unnecessary changing and a considerable amount of unnecessary expense. Will the board of management be allowed to incur the necessary expense of having a resident medical staff, and will local education authorities be expected to contribute towards it?
I have no doubt that the local education authorities throughout the country will be exceedingly willing to use the facilities that are to be provided, but the areas that need them most are those where expense has to be most closely watched. The rich authorities of the south of England have never really had to tackle the problem of providing elementary and secondary education in the circumstances of the borough which I represent, or of the County of Durham, Sunderland, Gates-head and these other places, where the number of school children per 1,000 of the population is far higher than it is in the south of England and where the rateable value per head is astonishingly low. Take Surrey—a rateable value of nearly £11 a head and a population of 1,000,000, with 90,000 elementary school children— and the County of Durham, with a rateable value one-third per head of the population of that of Surrey, and a school population nearly double that of Surrey.
§ Mr. Ede
I am glad to know that it is interesting. I want these camps to be used; and my point is that the districts which can use them best are those which will be unable to use them unless the Government are prepared to deal quite generously with local authorities in the matter of grants. If no decision has yet been reached on this matter, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will represent to his Noble Friend the importance of making a specific pronouncement on this issue at as early a date as possible so that local education authorities in the poorer areas may be in a position to use these camps at the earliest possible moment. I share the views expressed by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) as to the inadequacy of the present proposals. I believe that if these camps were provided on 10 times the existing scale and adequate facilities were provided, they would be of the utmost benefit to a large 2148 number of the children now in our schools. I hope the Government will not be long before they extend these proposals and give to an even larger number of people an opportunity of participating in the benefits of the scheme.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Sir Joseph Nall
I do not want to prolong the discussion on a Bill on which there is such general agreement, but there are a few points I would like to amplify. In the first place, I think it would be disastrous if it went out that the Bill provides any conflict with the interests which are known as seaside holiday resorts. I do not think it does. The hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) clearly indicated that one part of his constituency may object to the Bill and another part will welcome it. I should like to support what has been said about an adequate dispersal of the housing units within what we may call a full unit area. A number of matters, it seems to me, will have to be borne in mind in the selection and allocation of sites. There is the availability of a water supply, suitability for drainage, the proximity of existing transport services, which will be available in a time of emergency, and, above all, the suitability of the site for occupation in cold wintry weather. It will be no use building flimsy buildings of a holiday type in areas which are fit only for habitation in the summer. All these things must be borne in mind. When it comes to the selection of the actual districts it seems to me that with due care areas can be chosen within a reasonable distance of the populated districts which they are intended to serve. The great cities in the main have quite rural and safe areas up to anything within 50 miles of their borders.
The city I represent, Manchester, has teeming thousands of young children who never really get a summer holiday except in some of the camps provided by the different funds which are raised for the purpose. They never see the seaside unless on a day trip. They may get a hurried day in the country, but they do not know what it is to have a week's holiday in clean, healthy rural surroundings. As one surveys broadly the picture, it is obvious that in the Midlands, and the North, in the Derbyshire and Yorkshire dales, in the Vale of Llangollen, the Vale of Clwyd, in Festiniog—a 2149 gorgeous piece of country—are areas where this kind of accommodation can be established with a minimum of wasteful expenditure by having to create new services, and with the maximum advantage to everyone concerned. There is one further point which should be kept in mind, and that is that in addition to the adequate dispersal of the housing units over each group there must be an adequate area for recreation so that the youngsters are not crammed in the village and become a nuisance to themselves and the ordinary folk in the village. Care must be exercised to avoid as far as possible highly cultivated rural areas. Let these camps be put where there is plenty of space, where there is more or less open common land, where there is land which is not in a high state of cultivation. If these points are kept in mind and the scheme is run with common sense and discretion, if proper regard is paid to the proximity of adequate transport and existing hospital and medical services, the availability of water and the suitability for drainage, the scheme can be made a success. These things, of course, cannot be laid down in the Bill, but I raise them now so that in due course when the Department comes to sanction schemes these common sense points will be kept fully in mind.
There is one further point. I think it would be a tremendous advantage against an emergency if definite camps were allotted to definite school areas. In that way not only the youngsters who may have to go to these places in a hurry in an emergency but the elder people as well, will know the places to which they are going and will be acquainted with them when a time of emergency arises; and that fact would be of enormous advantage in avoiding panic. In short, if it is properly done instead of it being a panic rush to these places the youngsters, in their innocence, will regard it more as a picnic and to that extent the general removal will be facilitated. I should like to add that I am sure the Bill should be regarded as a beginning, and not as a maximum. It is quite obvious that the provision which it immediately makes cannot be adequate for a complete scheme, but at least let us begin by getting experience of the way in which the thing should be done, and then it can be extended so that in due course it will be adequate against an emergency.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Harbord
I intervene in the Debate only because I represent a seaside resort, and while I share to the full most of the opinions which have been so ably expressed by the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) in regard to the way people should be evacuated from the centres and the provision which it is proposed to make for them, I disagree with him on one item. He expressed himself as rather hostile to the idea that seaside resorts would be prejudiced by the establishment of these camps subsidised by the Government. I entertain quite the opposite opinion. The establishment of these camps, I believe, will, unless I get an assurance from the Government to the contrary, compete with the seaside holiday resorts, and be detrimental to the lodging-house keepers and small hotel keepers, and the camps in which so much money is invested. Let me say immediately that I have no interest in any of those camps. Some hon. Members have said that in the camps that are to be constructed under this Bill, people could be cared for at a minimum cost. This would make a great alteration in the incomes of those who have invested money in camps, boarding houses, and so on. I hope that the Government will show some consideration for the interests of those people, and will be able to give an assurance that it is their intention to see that these people are not adversely affected and put out of business simply because the Government have not sufficiently considered that aspect of the matter.
§ 9.17 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
I associate myself with those hon. Members from County Durham and elsewhere who have expressed profound regret at the paucity of the contents of this Measure. The Minister would be justified in following Midshipman Easy's nurse, and declaring, "Please, sir, it was such a little one." The proposals contained in the Bill are only a minute beginning with regard to a vital matter of safety and defence. Hon. Members are urged to stimulate in their constituencies an interest in National Service on the ground that the matter is one of acute urgency, but in this Bill, the Government are indicating to the country that there is no urgency with regard to making adequate provisions 2151 concerning camps for the school-children and others directly affected.
Is it because of some sense of tenderness for the land-owning classes of the country who may not desire a sudden exodus to the rural areas of unwashed multitudes of industrial workers? Why is it that the Government have not brought forward a far-reaching scheme which, in a bold way, would have divided up the country, indicated the population that was affected, and showed to the community, and particularly to potential enemies, that in this matter Britain is at last waking up and preparing to fulfil her duties to the community? I was one of the Members invited to meet the Minister on the North- East Coast last Monday, and at that conference a complaint was made that only one borough in the whole county of Durham—Gateshead—is to be an evacuation area, and that the other 22 local authority areas are to be neutral areas. That would be well if the neutral areas were to be treated as neutral areas by potential enemies. The Minister's answer to the complaint that was made was that, while it was true that they were neutral areas and that provision had not been—
The Minister indicated that in the case of these areas described as neutral, the Camps Bill would rectify the matter and make the provision that hitherto had not been made. I am afraid we cannot regard this Bill as fulfilling that pledge as far as the North-East Coast is concerned. However, this is a valuable beginning which may prove that a better use will be made of our country. It indicates a communal interest, deeper than ever before, in the young life of the community, and perhaps it may lead to the proper and better use of many of the large estates of the country which to-day are very little used, or used only by a very small, privileged class. I look upon the Bill as the dawn of a new outlook with regard to the material resources of our country.
All agree that at the present time we need a fitter nation. It took the Great War to make this country recognise its obligations with regard to the housing of the masses. It is gratifying that that spirit which was engendered 2152 after the war is being fruitful, thanks to the enthusiasm of all sections of the community; and we give the Government credit for having played their part with regard to the better housing of the masses. Are we to understand that this new menace from the air is to be an instrument for bringing our countryside, with its enormous potentialities, directly into touch with the masses of our people from the great centres of population? Many of these people have never seen the sea, and scarcely been into the countryside, and have been excluded from enjoying the glories of nature. If this Bill is to be an instrument for rectifying that long disability under which the industrial workers have suffered, then we welcome it and will do everything we can to make the Measure as perfect as possible.
I am glad the Bill contains strong Clauses with regard to compulsory purchase. The Government are determined to resist costs of the sort that many of us, as local administrators, have to bear from our local landlord classes. I take it that the Government will have a proper basis of assessment, and that either the land will be taken at the value at which it is assessed for local taxation, or that there will be some other equitable method, so that the community will not be held up to ransom. I welcome cordially the new powers that are to be given to the Unemployment Assistance Board. Here is an opportunity if the Government will avail themselves of it —and they show extraordinary shyness in approaching the question—by which they could forthwith set large numbers of our unemployed to work under model conditions. We have, however, had no clear statement as to the amount of support which the Government will give to the local authorities. It certainly is not indicated in the Bill, but they must somehow or other, either administratively or otherwise, provide such support. There are local authorities which have large populations of children but where impoverishment is rampant and where the burden of the rates is so great that, as in the case of the county of Durham, conferences have been called because they have come to the breaking-point and they have had to consider whether they are justified in engaging in any further social advance. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what fresh finance will be provided, so that 2153 we may be able to utilise to the full this measure which, if it is developed as it ought to be on truly national lines, would be one of the most beneficent measures of the century.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Captain C. Browne
I think nearly every point raised by the first six Clauses of the Bill have been dealt with by previous speakers very satisfactorily, but there is one Clause, Clause 7, which says that this Bill shall not extend to Northern Ireland. I want to ask the Government if they can see their way to allow the Bill to extend to Northern Ireland, because there are many parts of that country that would be very suitable for camps, and we have many unemployed men, and if there is going to be a training centre for men who have perhaps become unfamiliar with their work, they might get reinstated. Then there is the other question of camps for children. I think that is a very valuable part of the Bill, and I hope that the Government will see their way to extend it to Northern Ireland so that that part of the country may have the benefit of it. This is part of the defence policy of the Government, and the Government might tell me that we have our own Parliament in Northern Ireland to deal with these things, but we have no power and no right to say anything about the defences of the country. That is purely an Imperial matter.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
While we on this side of the House welcome the Bill as quite a small beginning in providing, I trust, educational facilities for our people, I would like to know from the Minister who will reply whether these camps would actually rank for grant. In Glamorganshire camps are not a new thing for educational purposes. Under the Glamorganshire Education Committee children have gone to a camp for some years, and for educational and health reasons it has been a splendid thing. An extension of that system would, I am sure, be welcomed throughout the whole of Wales, and, I am certain, by most of the education committees throughout the country. But we should like to know whether these proposed camps will be placed financially in the same position as the camps which have been instituted by the education committees in Glamorganshire and elsewhere.
2154 There is no necessity to conduct this as an experiment. Camps have already been tried out. In addition to the camp I have already referred to, we have had one in Glamorganshire for years under the jurisdiction of the Welfare Fund of the mining industry, where some thousands of boys have found accommodation over a period of years. Boys from the mining industry, numbering somewhere between 200 and 250, have been taken to that camp year after year, and I am sure it would be admitted by all social workers and educationists that it has proved an immense blessing to the industry. Therefore the experiment has been already tried out and there is no reason why this Bill should contain a provision for no more than 17,500 children.
Perhaps I am rather too suspicious, but I wonder whether the President of the Board of Education would tell us, through the Minister who will reply, whether these camps are being provided to the detriment of the building programmes of education authorities, because if we think of the millions of children going to elementary schools the provision of camps for only 17,500 is a mere bagatelle. I should therefore like to be assured on that point. Since 1931 the education authorities have been preparing building programmes which have been deliberately slowed up by the Board of Education. For a period of some years actually nothing was done worth speaking of. In Glamorganshire we had a long list, and for about four years little or nothing was done. We have a long black list of schools throughout the country and I wonder whether the Government are, through this scheme, endeavouring to provide some kind of cheap alternative to the building programmes which have been submitted by education committees. I hope that is not the case. We welcome the open-air school for many reasons. We welcome it because we know that it is in many cases the only hope of children getting clean fresh air and physical training, the only hope of developing their minds and their bodies upon proper lines. I hope that my suspicion in that respect is not justified and that nothing will be done to hold up the building programmes which have been submitted by Glamorgan and other education authorities over a period of years. I hope that my criticisms in that respect have little foundation.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
They have absolutely none.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
I am very pleased to hear it. I have been surprised to hear of the opposition which has been offered to this Bill by representatives of health resorts. I thought that the representatives of the health resorts of this country would welcome the cultivation of the holiday spirit among our people, particularly when it is recognised that the children who are to go to these camps are children who seldom if ever, have a holiday at all. For the representatives of Blackpool and North Wales and Great Yarmouth and other places to put up a boarding-house case against this Bill, is, I think, very mean and selfish. It is also stupid in their own interests, for if there is one thing which the representatives of the holiday resorts should appreciate, it is the necessity for inducing people to go to holiday resorts, especially at a time when the question of holidays with pay has become a paramount question in this country. They should recognise the importance of cultivating the holiday spirit in the generation represented by the children who will have the opportunity of going to these camps. In putting up such opposition to the Bill they are indeed opposing their own interests.
I hope what has been said from this side of the House with regard to the size of these camps will be borne in mind. I trust that they will not be camps to accommodate 350 but that they will be dispersed in such a way that there will not be more than 50, or 100 at the outside, in each camp. That is desirable for many reasons and particularly those enunciated by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). We know how difficult it is for 350 children accommodated in one camp to be treated as part of a community. I trust also that the camps will not be constructed entirely of wood. The question of fire is in itself an important consideration. I imagine it will be found that in districts remote from London or other large cities, good sound buildings will be available which could be purchased and turned to account, and if buildings cannot be purchased I suggest that they should be built. I hope that in this matter cheapness will not be the prune consideration. 2156 If these camps are constructed of wood only it is to be remembered that depreciation during the period when they are unoccupied will be very substantial. I doubt whether in the climatic conditions of this country it would be possible to leave wooden structures unoccupied for three or six months without seriously impairing the health of those who might afterwards occupy them and I trust that every effort will be made to provide all proper facilities and amenities.
In each rural district where a camp is situated, care should be taken to see that there is an adequate water supply, proper sanitation, proper cooking facilities and other essentials to the health of the small community which is to be created there. I hope we shall have replies to the series of questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on labour conditions. I do not wish to repeat those questions, but I would particularly ask for a statement on the terms of the contract, if any, to be applied to the trainees. Are they to be under any contractual obligations at all, and if anything happens to them, will they be paid compensation? Apart from any subsidy that may come from the Unemployment Assistance Board are they to come under the recognised district wage rates? I trust that no attempt will be made through this system to under-cut standards of working and of wages in any district. Subject to satisfactory replies to those questions, I am sure that my hon. Friend will offer no opposition to Second Reading.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
There are two points which I desire to raise. The first refers toClause3 (2),which provides:No provision contained in. a scheme made under the Town Planning Act, 1925, or the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, or any enactment repealed by either of those Acts, shall apply to any land acquired, or appropriated, with the approval of the Minister by a recognised company …except in so far as the Minister may at any time direct.I wish to protest against the manner in which the Government in introducing a particular Measure rides rough-shod over previous Measures introduced by its predecessors. The original Town Planning Measure in connection with housing was introduced under the Liberal Government by Mr. John Burns, I think, in 1910, Very little headway was made with town 2157 planning, however, until after the War. Since the War, we have tried to go ahead with planning as best we could, but it has been extremely difficult because of the number of interests concerned. We have not yet got a proper statement from the Ministry on how many of these planning schemes have been accepted, but so far as schemes have been effected, it has meant a great deal of sacrifice on all sides to get them into operation. Then the Government introduce a new series of Measures, and having, apparently, forgotten all about the importance of planning schemes for the development of the countryside on proper lines, they ride rough-shod over earlier provisions. Of course this Bill says:except in so far as the Minister may at anytime direct.An instance which has been before the public a good deal lately relates to a site acquired by the Air Ministry in Wiltshire. Having laid out a large sum on one site, the Ministry are now changing to another site and interfering with a plan under which the owner of the land had made a private park into an open space for ever. That is a bit of self-sacrifice with which I have had something to do, in trying to encourage other landowners to do the same thing and preserve the amenities for all time, although it is sacrificing a great deal of the possibilities of development. But what is the good of asking landowners to make a heavy sacrifice if at any time the Government can override it in what they say is the public interest? Town planning is in the public interest. The only way in which we can secure the minimum of preservation of the countryside rural amenities and so on, for town dwellers quite as much as country dwellers, is by having town-planning schemes. I feel that Sub-section (2) ought to be turned round the other way, saying that the Minister shall never allow any of the provisions of the Town Planning Acts to be overridden except in very extreme circumstances. I hope the protest that I have made will be considered.
My second point is this: These camps, in which all of us who are concerned in the health and the safety and the welfare of the people must be intensely interested, will introduce a very great danger of ill-health, especially as regards the conveyance of infection, unless pro- 2158 perly supervised from the health point of view. Their management is going to be by non-profit-earning companies, but though they may be non-profit-earning and run by people of very high ideals, those people would not of themselves have much interest in the details of public health. This is really vital. At any time you might get an outbreak in one of these camps which might carry off perhaps half the children—such an outbreak as occurred at the Crystal Palace during the last War. It is easy enough for the laity to say that that is incorporated in the public health of the district, but if the camps are going to be in rural areas the rural medical officer of health, undoubtedly an excellent fellow, but at the same time with other duties to perform, and more likely than not in private practice and not a whole-time officer, will probably not be the kind of person who is used to dealing with these matters on a big scale.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
Not a bit sweeping. An ordinary rural area does not have to deal with a sudden invasion of 350 children from the town. He has had no experience of that sort whatever, and, even if occasionally a camp goes there, he is not an expert in dealing with the matter. You want a man of fairly big experience, and this is a matter which should come under the county medical officer of health. He ought to be in command. But he has no direct responsibility for sanitation. He has certain definite functions to carry out, but they do not interfere with the duties of the local sanitary authority. I am speaking of England and Wales. I do not understand the Scottish system, which I believe is in some ways better than the English. We want some kind of provision made by which the county medical officer of health, or the county council through its sanitary committee, should be responsible for the sanitary control of these camps. I should like that point to be considered in Committee.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Naylor
My object in rising is to ask for information on a matter which does not appear to be dealt with in the Bill itself. I think we are right in assuming that, whether in peace or war 2159 time, the accommodation provided in these camps will be far below what we have reason to expect will be the demand. The Bill does not indicate in any way, in the event of local authorities making demands for accommodation in excess of that at the disposal of the companies, what is to be the principle of selection. The boards of the companies will be called upon to decide in that case as to which children, and from which districts children shall be taken. I hope the Minister will give the information for which I am seeking. It is rather important because there are certain districts which would have superior rights to be considered both in peace and in war time.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
I should say that the Minister of Health and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland have had a very easy and a very comforting day, because throughout the whole of the Debate the main criticism that has been levelled at the proposal is one of inadequacy. With regard to the question that my hon. Friend has put, the competition will be almost unlimited, because anyone who has had any experience of sending children for a school journey knows how keen they are to go on a second occasion, and parents who have had the opportunity of sending their boys and girls to a camp are always keen that they shall have an opportunity of going. With this limited amount of accommodation the competition is going to be exceedingly keen, and the amount of disappointment will be appalling. So there is every justification for the request that has been made that the erection of these camps shall be speeded up.
Furthermore, so keen does the House feel for the success of this experiment that from every quarter there is a strong demand for a further development of the idea. As one hon. Member has already said, this is by no means an experiment. This kind of experiment has already become well established, and anyone who has had the opportunity of seeing boys and girls, or adults for that matter, who have gone from the urban areas, from the cities and towns, to these camps has been overjoyed at seeing the spirit with which these people have been possessed in enjoying a holiday, probably for the first time, in the country or in close proximity to the sea. I look upon this proposal from this point of view. I think we shall 2160 ultimately realise this to be a great asset in the physical, moral, and spiritual development of our race. The taking of boys and girls into the country from the crowded centres is always exhilarating for them, and it becomes all the more easy for the teachers to give them object lessons and to impress them with lessons which last throughout the course of their lives. Therefore, I and others welcome these proposals and hope they are but the beginning of a great development throughout the country.
I want to put a few points to the Minister upon which I hope he will be able to enlighten the House. In reading the Bill, I rather fear that when these two companies are set up they will in no sense of the word be responsible to this House. They will receive public money by way of grant and a portion by way of loan, and I should like to know that this House will have an opportunity of discussing the progress of these schemes. I think it would be desirable that the work of these two boards should be amenable to survey by this House, because I am persuaded that if these boards administer these proposals in an economical and reasonable manner, it will be, as it were, a source of education to Members of this House, and not only so, but to the country as a whole, and in those areas that may be remote from the established camps, it will stimulate a desire to encourage further developments. I hope that the Minister will be able to satisfy us that this House will have some opportunity of that kind to watch the development of the scheme and, if need be, to discuss its administration. If provision is not already made for that method, I hope that on the Committee stage some Amendment of the Clauses may be made or a new Clause may be inserted which will make that possible. I think it is highly desirable.
The very important point has been raised by two or three hon. Members, which I hope will not be overlooked, of the position of a number of education authorities throughout the country which have found it absolutely impossible to send boys or girls to a school camp. Others have been more fortunate and have been able to send boys and girls, and the question has been put, "How do these camps stand in regard to grant?" We on this side feel that this is an educational scheme in every sense of the word and that it should legitimately rank for grant 2161 on the same ground as education or public health. If that can be done, it will be a great encouragement to the distressed areas, and what is more important, it will give facilities to the boys and girls in those areas that they cannot enjoy at the present time; and they need them possibly more than the better-off districts throughout the country.
I listened very attentively to the composition of the board, and I rather regretted—I may be wrong, and I stand to be corrected if I am—that no mention was made of representatives of the municipal or county associations. I think it would have been desirable that representation of that kind should be placed on the board, if only to stimulate interest and to develop the schemes and a knowledge of them throughout the country.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
Does the hon. Member recognise that the chairman of the education committee of the County Councils Association has been included?
§ Mr. Viant
That may be so. Then again, I should like to put forward the suggestion that whilst you have representatives on the board who have a knowledge of building and such like, I did not hear anyone mentioned who has a knowledge of equipment and furnishing. I make this point for this reason. I hope these camps will be used for no other purpose than that of holidays for boys and girls. I hope we shall never have to use them for evacuation purposes, but there is that possibility, and I would suggest that it is advisable that we should have someone on the board with a knowledge of furnishing and equipment, who will take into consideration this all-important fact, that in view of the possibility of adults having to go into those camps, the equipment and furnishing should be of such a character as should be adaptable both for boys and girls and for adults. As an illustration, if the whole of your beds are solely for boys and girls, they will be useless for adults. Therefore, it is all-important that we should have someone on the board who has a knowledge of equipment and furnishing.
We hope that this camp life will become part of the ordinary school curriculum. The object lessons that can be given in a school camp are invaluable in the education of boys and girls. I hope that in view of the fact that the 2162 Royal Institute of British Architects have promised their co-operation and advice in the development of these camps, we can rest assured that the buildings will be in keeping with the environment, and not be a disfigurement to the countryside. I would again emphasise the need for endeavouring to keep the camps as small as possible so that they do not become equivalent to large institutions and develop the institutional atmosphere, for that would be fatal to the whole idea. The site should be chosen so that it will be possible to extend the camps for evacuation purposes. What is more important, if the sites are sufficiently large it will be possible to provide recreational facilities, which are so desirable for the boys and girls, because if they have no such facilities they will wish they had remained at home. We want them to have a real all round education.
I want to pass to Clause 4, which has caused considerable apprehension to those associated with the building industry. I hope the Minister will be able to give some idea of the type of construction for the huts. I gathered from him that certain suggestions have already been made and that the Government have their ideas fairly well set. I hope they will not embark upon timber constructions. I am associated with the timber trade and I know its shortcomings. The camps are to be permanent, and I hope that the Government will not put up something that is likely to cause trouble in the near future in the way of lice and that kind of thing. Let it be concrete or bricks if you like, but do not embark on timber. Clause 4 suggests that trainees will be employed on the construction, and I understand from the Minister that they may be taken from the training schools or instruction centres and put into the employ of the contractors. The Board will let out the building of these camps to contract, and the contractors will have facilities put at their disposal for employing trainees. I am not persuaded that there is any reason for that in view of the fact that there are already so many unemployed men in the building industry. About 200,000 building trade operatives are available for this work.
I understand that if trainees are taken by contractors for, say, three months they will be paid at, say, rod. per hour, but if the trainees are not an economic asset to the contractor the difference will be 2163 made up to the contractor by the Unemployment Assistance Board. The argument is that this method is to be adopted with a view to reconditioning the men and giving them an opportunity of regaining their health, strength and vigour. What is to become of the building trade operatives who are already unemployed and who are skilled in the kind of work that is to be done? Those who are associated with the building trade are apprehensive about these proposals because they have painful memories of what dilution has meant for them in the past. This will be none other than a scheme for dilution when no dilution is necessary because the labour is already available. It will be said that the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) is on the Board, but he is only one out of many. It is suggested that he could resign as a protest, but that would not remedy the position.
I hope we may have some assurance from the Minister that these proposals will not be embarked upon to the detriment of the building trade operatives who may already be unemployed. If the present conditions of uncertainty continue, there is every possibility that the number of unemployed workers in the building trade will increase, because orders are not being placed to-day. People are not having the work done because they are nervous about embarking upon contracts. I hope the Minister will be able to satisfy the building trade that there will be nothing in the nature of dilution enforced upon the industry while unemployment exists in it to the extent it does.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I see from the Bill and the memorandum that there are to be seven camps in Scotland and that two companies are to operate, one in England and Wales and one in Scotland. I should like the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who, I think, is going to reply, to inform us whether it is intended to set up a new company for Scotland, or whether this work is to be done through one of the companies now engaged upon housing schemes in Scotland. Recently the Secretary of State for Scotland appointed a Noble Lord as chairman of a new housing association to carry out certain experiments in the development of building in Scotland, building 27,000 houses. He was a Noble Lord of whom 2164 I had never heard a word. We have the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman that he is all right, and though all his other recommendations in politics have been wrong I hope that on this occasion he may be right, for the sake of housing. I have no objection to setting up camps and taking the people to the country or the seaside. Anybody who represents a Glasgow Division, even one of the best, never mind the worst, will welcome any scheme to take children away from the terrible surroundings in which they live week in and week out.
Next I should like to know something about the cost—not with reference to evacuation in time of war. As I understand it, the Government are to pay one-half of the capital cost and the other half of the capital cost and the cost of maintenance is to be met by the local education authority or some other body and the parents may also be asked to pay the cost of maintenance. If the camps are to be of any value in the West of Scotland they will have to take the children from the crowded towns, and the cost will have to be met either by the education authority or some other public body. If the children taken to the camp are the children of unemployed people, as they will be in many cases, will the education authority meet the cost or will the unemployed person meet the cost, and if it be the unemployed person will the Unemployment Assistance Board recoup the parents? If the unemployed man has to meet the cost obviously he can only do it to the extent of the grant which he is allowed by the Board for that child, because the balance of his money is required to meet the needs of the rest of the family. If the cost is to become a charge upon the education authority and the local rates, I am afraid that the scheme may not come fully into operation.
I do not want to see the question of whether these children are to go to camp or not become the subject of a great outcry locally because the rates are to be increased. One of the curses of local government is that we cannot go ahead with a hundred and one socially desirable schemes because arguments are bandied about in each case as to whether the rates will be increased or not, and not whether the scheme is desirable. If there is to be a charge upon the local rates and not a charge upon some national body I think one of the decencies of the scheme will be 2165 lost. Another question, which was raised by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), and was also referred to in passing by the Minister of Health, was whether the Unemployment Assistance Board ought to make grants for the purpose of building the camps.
The Bill allows the Unemployment Assistance Board to make grants for the purpose of securing the labour to build the camps. I gathered from the speech of the Minister of Health that this is to be done under the supervision of and by agreement with the building trades, which are to be consulted. It seems a new principle that the money of the Unemployment Assistance Board is to be used for the purpose of employing people. I am not going to argue whether it is right or wrong to do so but it seems a serious matter. Money has been voted by Parliament to the Unemployment Assistance Board for the purpose of relieving unemployment and not for the purpose of building camps or paying wages. Such purposes may be desirable or not, but the issue seems tremendously important whether that money should be used to pay wages for a particular purpose. I should like a guarantee how far the Board in the exercise of their power can use the money to undercut other forms of labour and an assurance also that young men are not going to build these camps on Unemployment Assistance Board money, for the purpose of undercutting normal labour.
I should also like the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to tell me whether he has come to any conclusion as to where the camps in Scotland are to be. I trust that on the building of these camps there is not to be a wholesale transference of labour from one local community to another, because bad feeling is aroused, generally speaking, in the locality where the men are dumped, and that is good neither for the men who are dumped nor for the community into which they are dumped. I want a guarantee that community labour shall be used for the building of the camps. For my part, I have no great objection to children being taken and decently treated. In the main, poor children will get better food than usually. They cannot get worse food or worse housing conditions than many of them now have.
I want a guarantee from the Undersecretary of State that he will not use these camps for any purposes of military 2166 training. Some of the children in the camps will be 14 or 15 years of age. I am not going to argue here the rights or wrongs of military training, but if the Government are going to indulge in it, it should be done in a straightforward fashion and not by means of a camp scheme. I trust that the Under-Secretary of State will give this assurance. Those are the things that I want to know about. I should like an assurance from the Secretary of State for Scotland about the charge to the parents and the charge on the local rates, and whether some other public body cannot be allowed to recoup parents for any charge that is made.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I would not be in the shoes of the Minister of Health for anything, because the responsibility which he is taking, no doubt in conjunction with advisers, is one that I should not like to have to bear. Apart from that, if the Government believe that this is a good scheme for safeguarding the children, provision should be made for very many more children. The number now contemplated, namely, 17,500, seems to be a ridiculously small proportion of the total. In my opinion, the greatest possible care will have to be taken in building these camps, but I have no fear that, with good will, they can be so built as to meet all requirements in regard to health and comfort and everything that is desirable in connection with a camp. I have seen one or two of the aerodromes and airports that we have been building about the country, and, when I have seen farms of perhaps 200 or 500 acres torn to pieces, levelled and made beautiful without any regard to expense, which seems to have been the last consideration, I am sure that the Government, in view of the fact that these children are the future citizens of the country, will be just as willing to spend money liberally in making these camps comfortable and safe and healthy.
In the case of one or two existing camps which I have in mind, and which are used as holiday camps. I feel sure that it would not take a very large bomb dropped in the centre to destroy every house that they contain, and, therefore, it seems desirable in the new camps that the houses should be spread, and not grouped close together. I should like to ask whether there will be any provision in the way of air-raid shelters, so that, if there is an air raid the children will have 2167 some place to go to. It will not be sufficient for the parents of these children, if there is a war, to know that they have gone to a camp; we must be able to assure them that there is provision in the way of air-raid shelters, and the Government do not seem to be very strong on these at the moment, apart from those that are to be put in back gardens.
I have already had occasion to draw attention to the principle which I believe is contained in Clause 4. Recently we have had some dark hints about young men who have been drawing benefit for a long time and have not been prepared to go to training centres or take advantage of the facilities which the Minister of Labour has been providing for them. This has made some of us believe that the Government had it in mind to take drastic steps with regard to the money these men are getting. It seems probable to me that the Minister is going to use these young men to build the camps, and that the contractors are to be assisted out of the Unemployment Assistance Fund. I am not sure that these young men, whether they come from training camps or not, will be used for constructional work, because a skilled carpenter can now build a house, and it can be sent in in sections. I think these young men will be used largely to do the navvying—digging the drains and making the ordinary amenities about the camp; in other words, doing the physical work. Probably, if they do not go these hints that we have been getting may develop into something more than hints.
Will the Minister of Health give the House an assurance that the labour which is to be engaged in connection with these camps is not to be confined to young men? I want to put in a plea for the elderly man who has been unemployed, perhaps, for four or five years, because his mine or factory is closed or because some firm with which he has been connected has linked up with another or gone into liquidation. That man wants reconditioning as well. He wants that little bit of money to enable him to get new clothes and be respectable again, instead of living week by week knowing that every day after his benefit day he will not have a penny in his pocket. The Minister of Labour was very annoyed when we talked about a standing army of 2,000,000 unemployed; but we have 2168 a big standing army here of men who have been unemployed for two years. I want the older men to have a chance to make a few extra shillings and to regain their independence. At present, there is no opportunity for them at all. The only prospect of a chance for them appears to be in the event of a disaster. But here will be an opportunity. I hope that it will be taken, and that the older men will not be debarred from getting work on these camps.
§ 10.35 p.m.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland(Mr. Wedderburn)
The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) has told me that I shall have a comfortable duty in replying to this Debate. It may be an easy task, but it is certainly not an inspiring one to have the duty of concluding a Debate in which there has been scarcely any criticism of the Measure which is before the House, except to say that it ought to have been designed on something like ten times the scale that is proposed. If one is anxious, as the Government are anxious, to proceed rapidly and urgently with an undertaking which we believe will prove to be socially desirable, one is naturally disposed to agree, and not to argue with those who say that this Measure will be so highly beneficial that its extent ought to be multiplied many times over. I would like to thank hon. Members in all parts of the House for the support and welcome that they have given to the principle of the Bill and for the many useful and valuable suggestions that have been put forward, all of which will be noted by my right hon. Friend. It will not be possible for me, in view of the experimental nature of the proposals in the Bill, to give a final or precise answer to the questions relating to finance, to the quality of the houses, to the degree of parliamentary control that may be possible or to the exact composition of boards of directors and other bodies that may be consulted, and there are many other more detailed questions that have been asked which could not really arise until the time came for the contracts to be made between these companies and the Ministry of Health or the Department of Health for Scotland.
In regard to finance, about which the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and other hon. Members have asked a great number of questions, there is no 2169 close estimate of the cost of erecting these camps. The hon. Member will see from the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill that the figures are all conveniently round figures— £ 1,000,000 for the cost of construction, £200,000 for that of maintenance, £20,000 for the construction of each camp; 50 camps and so on. These are only approximate estimates. For example, as the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and one or two others have suggested, supposing it were found desirable to have much smaller camps than those envisaged under the Bill, I do not think it would follow that 175 camps, each accommodating 100 children, would cost exactly the same as 50 camps, each accommodating 350 children. The rough estimate which we have made is based on the assumption that these camps which are now to be provided under this Bill will be of a size to accommodate in peace time 350 children, with teachers, and when provision is made for sleeping quarters, for kitchens and dining halls, for baths, lavatories, class rooms, recreation huts, administration offices, stores, playing fields, and other conveniences, we estimate that the average cost of all these things should be slightly less than £20,000, although it will naturally vary with the distance of the site from the centre from which the construction materials have to come.
The hon. Member wished to know how the cost would be recovered and asked what weekly payments would have to be made by education authorities or the parents of the children for the occupation of these camps. That, again, would depend on the period of the year in which they were occupied. If they were occupied for a whole year the charge would obviously be much smaller than if they were occupied for a few weeks. It has been estimated that if they are occupied for six months and assuming that the cost of construction is £20,000 for each camp and the cost of maintenance £200,000, for the whole 50, on that basis the weekly charge which would be necessary to recover the £200,000 and half of the £1,000,000 for construction, would be an amount of about 2s. 3d. per week. If education authorities, as we contemplate, are the bodies which will rent these camps it will be the education authority who will pay rent to the company for the use of these camps, and as that would be part of their ordinary annual expenditure on edu- 2170 cational services, they would receive, of course, a grant upon it. In Scotland last year it was decided to give a grant of 50 per cent. to the Scottish education authorities for both construction and maintenance of any camps they might make themselves, and for any expenditure they incur for the use of camps made by these companies the grant paid to them will be on the same scale.
I understand that in England there is some difference between the grant paid in respect of maintenance and the grant in respect of construction, but any detailed questions on that matter will be dealt with by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, who tells me that he is speaking on the Financial Resolution. That also covers the point raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) who wanted to know the position about rates and who would be charged. It would, of course, be the education authorities who would pay this expenditure, and the expenditure which would fall on the rates would receive the grant which is given to education authorities for other normal expenditure.
In regard to Parliamentary control, when a contract is entered into between the Government and one of these companies it will, of course, have to contain some provision for an audit, probably there will be a requirement that an audit shall be made by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and I see no particular reason why a report should not be published by the Minister in the form of a White Paper if that is desired. But there is normally no provision for a continuing scrutiny by the House of Commons of the finances of companies of this type.
In Scotland, the company which will be responsible for providing these camps will be the Scottish Special Housing Association, as it will be constituted when the new body has been completed. The main part of the work of that company, as the hon. Member for Gorbals reminded us, is to build 25,000 houses in the Special Areas, and 8,500 houses outside the Special Areas. That is the main part of its duties, and in respect of those duties the House has the ordinary opportunities of discussing its work on housing policy. It can be raised on the Scottish Office Vote, or questions can be put down about it. There will be 2171 exactly the same opportunities of discussing the progress that the Special Areas Housing Association is making in respect of the work which it will now have to do under this Bill. That also applies to the new English company, which does not already exist, but whose progress it will no doubt be possible to discuss on the Ministry of Health Vote.
With regard to the composition of these bodies, some criticism has been made of their limited character. On the Scottish Housing Association there are at present two representatives of the local authorities —one from the Stirling County Council and one from the Ayrshire County Council —and I think that in respect of the English body, most hon. Members who have spoken have expressed satisfaction with the qualifications of those who have been put on it for the purpose of maintaining the views of the architects or of the local authorities. I do not think it would be desirable at present to widen the personnel too much. For example, the voluntary societies, which the hon. Member opposite mentioned, are some of the bodies which may be customers of this company, for they may be hiring the camps. In regard to the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, or Rural Scotland, the company will, of course, make it their business to approach all appropriate bodies of that kind. But I would point out to the hon. Member that one of the arguments he used—an argument with which I fully agree—was that from every point of view it is most urgent to get on with this experimental work as rapidly as we can, and to get a large number of camps begun, and if possible finished, this year; and if we were to enlarge too much the composition of the company which has the duty of building the camps, putting on all kinds of people representing all kinds of interests, all of which have their own particular views to put forward, I do not think that would make for celerity in carrying out the business of the company.
A number of questions were asked about Clause 4. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies), who was followed in the same sense by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams), asked whether there was any possibility of trainees being engaged on productive work simply on the Unemployment Assistance Board allowances. Of course, that is not so; the full rates of wages will have to be 2172 paid. The hon. Member asked whether it would be under contract of service. The answer is in the affirmative; it would be under contract of service, as provided for in the Bill, not exceeding three months. The hon. Member for Merthyr also asked whether the National Health Insurance contributions will be paid by the workers. They will be. He also asked whether the unemployed man will be assisted to remove his family. That would be a matter for the Board to decide, but I should think probably not, because, in the first place the contract is only for three months, and, in the second place, it is probable that any man coming from the Unemployment Assistance Board would be a local man, who would not be coming from any great distance. In reply to a further question by the hon. Member, the labour will be taken on in the ordinary way after consultation with representatives of the building trade.
In reply to the hon. Member for Gorbals, this is not a new principle being specially introduced for this Bill. I have often heard hon. Members express disappointment that no more use has been made of Section 37 of the Unemployment Act, 1934, which does provide that the Board may make a contribution to local authorities who take on men for the purpose of making them fit for work, and all that Clause 4 does is to apply Clause 37 of the 1934 Act to the new companies which are being formed to construct the camps.
I confess I was a little sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker-Smith) should have made so strong an attack on this proposal. He appeared to consider that it applied to skilled labour, but I think my right hon. Friend in his opening speech did make it quite clear that this does not really concern skilled labour, but that the kind of work that would be available for applicants taken on through the agency of the Unemployment Assistance Board would be work for the unskilled worker—perhaps not a great deal, but a certain amount—that would have to be performed in connection with the construction of, and preparation of the ground for, these camps. I would suggest to my hon. Friend that it might well be a serious charge against the Government if they were to neglect even this small opportunity of doing something to 2173 help that part of the unemployed population who are suffering so much deterioration in their physique owing to the length of time they have been out of work, and who do constitute much the most serious part of the unemployment problem.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
There was one other question, as to whether the men who are brought into this work under the Unemployment Assistance Board would be covered by the Workmen's Compensation Act.
Yes, they would be in almost all respects the same as if they had been employed in the ordinary way. The only difference is this. Owing to their condition and their lack of training and experience for a long period of time, their employment value might not be so great as that of a man who has just come from another job, and the Unemployment Assistance Board would make up the difference represented by the reduced efficiency of the men.
That is a matter to be settled between the company and the Unemployment Assistance Board. In regard to evacuation in time of war, the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) put forward a very high estimate of the number of people who might have to be evacuated. If he is right in that estimate, it does increase the urgency of the problem and makes these camps all the more desirable, but the problem of the evacuation of the civil population from congested and vulnerable areas could, in any case, only be solved to a very small extent by the provision of camps. If we were to encourage hopes that camps would solve a large part of the problem, we might soon find our evacuation plans unworkable. According to our estimate, which the hon. Member for Derby opposite would probably think much too small, something over 1,500,000 children would have to be evacuated. If you allow 700 to each camp, which is double the number for which we are making peace-time provision, some 2,000 camps would be required. I am not sure that it is appreciated how many limitations would be imposed upon our choice of sites. They must be near enough to the large towns to avoid adding to the difficulties of 2174 transport. They must have adequate water supplies; they must not be in areas where the winter climate is too severe, and, as has been pointed out, many arrangements would have to be made for medical services. It is one thing to provide for a summer holiday, but quite another to provide camps to be occupied at all times of the year. We must be careful to get the relationship between school camps and evacuation camps in the proper perspective. While anything we can do in the provision of school camps will, we hope, assist in evacuation it would be foolish to pretend that we can discard or greatly reduce our billeting arrangements and billeting, by providing family life for the children, is probably the best way of caring for refugee children in war-time, as long as the accommodation in private houses is not overtaxed.
With regard to the peace-time purposes of these camps, the House is, no doubt, aware that education authorities have power to provide them, and it is not the purpose of the Bill to supersede those powers. It is, indeed, hoped that education authorities will make fuller use of them than they have done up to the present, and the purpose of the Bill is to enable us to carry out a carefully controlled experiment on a scale that no single education authority could attempt by itself. We hope that that experiment, in which, as my right hon. Friend said, many different interests will co-operate, will serve as an encouragement and example to the whole movement. We wish our experiment to proceed with reasonable care, in order to find out what effective demand there might be for these camps. I think we shall all be equally gratified if the demand turns out to be as great as hon. Gentlemen opposite have supposed. Whether that is so or not the Government will give careful consideration to the results of the experiment, not only as affecting our evacuation scheme, but also in the more permanent sense, as affecting our plans for the better health of the whole community.
§ Bill commited to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next. — [Mr. Stuart.]