§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to promote and facilitate the construction, maintenance and management of camps of a permanent character, it is expedient—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
There are a number of questions I want to raise on this Money Resolution, some of which I mentioned on Second Reading, some of which are more appropriately mentioned now, and some of which are the result of statements made by the Government during the Second Reading Debate and further reflection on those statements. The first matter is simply a reference to the second paragraph of the Money Resolution, which deals with the question of the labour by which the camps are to be built. Once more, I ask the Government to bear in mind the anxiety felt—I think very rightly—on this side of the Committee in that regard.
My second point relates to the provisions for the recovery of the loans which are to be made to the statutory companies that are to be set up. These loans amount to £700,000, half the original capital cost, and £200,000 which will be advanced for management and incidental expenses of various kinds. Those £700,000 out of a total provision of £1,200,000 are to be repaid over 20 years, with interest at 4 per cent. I suggest to the Minister—and I ask him earnestly to consider the matter —that a debt charge of £700,000 at 4 per cent. is very heavy. Consider what it means in relation to each camp which the company must run— £14,000 per camp to be recovered on charges which the management are to make to those who use the camps, and at a rate of 4 per cent., which I am bound to say seems to me to be very heavy. I should have thought it ought to be possible for these camps— and ought by the present legislation to be made possible for them—to borrow not only this capital, but if they see fit, further capital at the lowest possible rates at which the Treasury itself can borrow.
I hope the Government will consider both the total amount which they are going to ask the camps to repay and the rate of interest which they are to pay on that total. Let hon. Members look at the effect of the arrangement now proposed. The Government told us on Wednesday that the management would have to add a charge of 2s. 3d. per head per week for the repayment of these loan charges. It 2401 is true that, in so far as the camps are school camps to be used by local education authorities, their expenditure will, as we understand, rank for grant; that is, 1 suppose that approximately half of the cost—a little more if the Government are generous—will come back on the taxpayer in any case.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
My hon. Friend's remark adds greater force to the point I am making. I hope the rate of grant will not be as low as 20 per cent., and that the Government will look into the matter, but if that is the rate, it adds force to my argument. In so far as we are to have camps for holidays for adults—and the Minister by no means ruled out that possibility—there will be no grant, and therefore the full charge of 2s. 3d. per week per person will have to be paid. I know that the Minister hopes that this legislation will in due course work a great change in our national life. As I listened to him, I could not resist the feeling that, to his mind, the peace-time social purpose of the Bill was much more important than the temporary provision for war time accommodation. I think we all agree with that view, but the degree to which the camps will be used, that is to say the extent to which they will achieve their social purpose, will depend largely on the basic charge per week made to those who use them. Therefore, I urge again on the Government the desirability of reducing this heavy debt charge, and I hope that before we have parted with the Bill, the Government will be able to bring forward new proposals on that point.
The next question I wish to raise is also connected with the basic rate of charge to local education authorities and others who will use the camps. In the Second Reading Debate I said it would be useful if the Government would give some indication of the estimates which they were making under this head. I did not expect any elaborate answer, but, except with regard to the debt charge, I received no answer. It may be that the proposed methods of working the camps are still so vague that it is not possible to make any estimate by which the Government could feel themselves bound. I know that it is difficult to make an estimate and to 2402 change it later. At the same time, it is desirable that the discussion of the basic charge should be started as soon as possible for reasons which I shall explain. I think it is desirable because it may call forth from those who have experience in these matters various suggestions, perhaps suggestions of great value, of which the Government will be able to take advantage. I think it desirable because I hope that it will appear, since the camps are not being run for profit, that the basic charge will be incomparably lower than those of commercial camps and the mere fact that this is the case would prepare local education authorities, holiday organisations and individuals who desire camp holidays to make a large and increasing use of those camps which are now to be started.
I do not think there would be any difficulty in giving a rough estimate. There are, of course, many items to be considered. The first is diet. A great deal of experience is available in that respect. I understand that the National Council of Social Service run a camp for school-children in South Wales; that the cost of their kitchen is 5s. per week per person and that the physique of children was greatly improved by their visits to the camp. I hope that the diet in these camps will be on the most generous scale and will include fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and everything else required to help the children to grow healthy and strong. I am sure that even if the charge were higher than 5s. a week we on this side would not object. I know that the location and grouping of camps will affect the question of whether bulk purchases will be possible or not, and will also affect the cost of the distribution of food but at the same time a rough estimate ought to be possible.
Two other items, namely, heating and lighting are affected by the number of months in the year in which the camps will be used. We hope that they will be used for a large number of months— indeed for the greater part of the year if not all of it. It ought to be possible for the Government to make estimates, varying with the number of months during which the camps will be used and give us some general idea of the cost. There is another item which may not have been considered by the Government and that is laundry, which is much more important than it may appear. 2403 Perhaps the Government take the view that the school-children will be only a fortnight in the camp and that they can go for a fortnight without having their clothes washed, and therefore it will not be necessary to have any laundry except what is required for the basic requirements of the camp, such as bed-clothes. I think that is wrong and I hope the Government will not take that view. Experience may prove the desirability of children spending a great deal more than a fortnight at these camps. The people who go on holiday to these camps may want to remain there longer than a fortnight but, apart from those considerations, the camps are primarily for the purpose of providing accommodation in time of war for people who may have to remain in them for long periods. This is a charge, therefore, which must be taken into consideration.
There is one other point in connection with the basic weekly charge which may not seem relevant and if I am out of Order in raising it, I hope that you, Sir Dennis, will tell me so at once. I believe that a certain amount of anxiety is being caused on the question of whether teachers who go with children to these school camps will be put to any extra expense by so doing. It will be agreed that the co-operation of the teachers is vital to the success of this plan, and I believe the teachers are unanimously and enthusiastically in favour of the school camps. It would, however, be an extreme injustice if extra expenditure were put upon the teachers because they were doing their share of the work of bringing the children to the camps. The question has been raised, from what source I do not know, but it has come up for discussion and is, I understand, causing anxiety among teachers. Personally, I think our teachers are paid too little and it would be very unfair to place any extra charge upon them in this connection. I hope, therefore, the Government will make it plain that nothing of that kind is contemplated. The Minister spoke the other day on the question of holiday camps for adults. We attach great importance to this matter. The Bill as it stands, makes no provision for such camps, and this Money Resolution makes no provision for the capital which will be required to provide holiday camps for adults if there are to be such. 2404 I urge on the Minister that before the Bill leaves this House he should make Amendments in it which will make it possible for the companies to set up camps for adults, and also that he will make adequate financial provision to enable the companies to do so when they have the power.
The last point I wish to raise is that of the expansion of the camps in time of war. I shall not inflict upon the Minister arguments which he has already heard on the number of people who may have to be evacuated if an air attack on Great Britain should take place. I say frankly that I was very greatly disturbed by what the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said the other day. I am certain that the figures on which the Government are working are wholly fallacious, and that if an attack ever starts—we all fervently hope it will not do so—the numbers will be far greater than those on which the Government are now proceeding. Of course that is all guess work, but I do happen to know that a very well qualified authority who has given great attention to this matter and is very well qualified to form a judgment, did believe some years ago that the total number of people who will have to be evacuated can be hardly less than 10,000,000. Certainly the experience of recent years has not given us any ground for hope that the estimates then made can now safely be reduced. The camps must make some contribution towards this enormous total. I agree that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was quite right in saving that billeting is the first thing to look to. I urged that on the Lord Privy Seal's Committee last summer. I think we should have billeting for numbers far beyond those which are contemplated, and that the scheme should be carried through with ruthless determination if necessary. But the purpose of this Bill is to make some contribution at least towards the authorities. I do urge on the Government that it is really—I was going to say absurd—it is really quite inadequate to foresee only a twofold expansion of the camps in a time of war. Some people think that ten times more is nearer the right figure. I do not hold with that estimate.
§ The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member has raised a question as to the possibility of something that he 2405 said not being relevant. In view of the fact that I gave a definite and strict Ruling the other day against a Second Reading Debate on the Bill when we came to the Money Resolution, I have to draw the hon. Member's attention to that Ruling, but in the present case, if it be the general wish of the Committee that there should be a little extra latitude, I do not want to stop him; but I cannot pass some of the hon. Member's speech without calling attention to the Ruling which has been given.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I apologise if I have strayed beyond the rules of Order. I was about to argue that the provision of a capital sum of £20,000 per camp is quite inadequate in view of the necessity for expanding the camps in time of war. I hope that arguments to that end may be strictly in order. I was saying that I thought the Government ought to provide for an expansion much greater than the mere doubling of the capacity of the camps in time of peace, and that the expansion ought to be more nearly ten times. If such expansion is to take place when an emergency arises, the preparations must be made in advance, they must be fairly elaborate, and must be paid for in advance. What would be required to make an expansibility greater than twofold? I think it would be necessary to have stores on the spot, with sectional parts of the buildings of which the camp is composed. It would be well to store the parts or the materials for the extra buildings. I think the Government should make provision for tents and for double-decker beds. There should be the extra equipment to that end. There would certainly have to be a considerable expense upon the drainage system, though I do not think that is quite as costly as some people imagine. It would be necessary to have extra provision for water supplies, extra kitchen accommodation and equipment, and of course it would be necessary to have extra land.
Obviously that means a cost that would be a good deal more than the basic £20,000 which the Government provide. I have heard it said by an expert that if he were aiming at a tenfold expansion he would provide perhaps £35,000 a camp instead of £20,000. I do not hold by that estimate any more than I hold by the figure of a tenfold expansion, but I do urge that the basic provision which the 2406 Government make of a capital sum for each camp ought to be a good deal larger.
We have said that we think this Bill is desirable but that it is belated and inadequate. It is an experiment where experiment was required, but I hope the Government will consider these financial points and will make the Bill more adequate than it now is for the great purpose that we all have in view.
§ 2.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The Under-Secretary for Scotland, in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, said that to-day the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education would inform the Committee what would be the regulations under which these camps would be administered, as far as the grant from the Board of Education to local authorities is concerned, and he said that as far as Scotland was concerned the grant would be 50 per cent. Since the hon. Gentleman spoke on Wednesday I have taken steps to confirm the view that I formed during the Second Reading debate, that no such generosity will be shown by the Government in dispensing grants to English local education authorities in so far as they are education authorities for elementary education. This expenditure falls within the category for which only 20 per cent. of grants is paid by the Board of Education, although curiously enough if a local education authority is occupying part of a camp for higher education purposes and part for elementary purposes, that part which is used for higher education, let us say for children from secondary or technical schools, will receive 50 per cent., but the part occupied for elementary school children will receive only 20 per cent. If young persons are sent out under Section 86 of the Education Act of 1921, as amended by the relevant section of the Physical Training and Recreation Act of 1937, that expediture will rank for grant at 50 per cent., but the education authorities will be paid only 20 per cent. in respect of the elementary school children.
I urge that the Minister cannot expect the education authorities in these areas where these camps are most required to make use of the camps if they are to get as little as 20 per cent. of their expenditure in the way of grants. Take the Tyneside area and the borough repre- 2407 sented by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), a small part of which I represent. That borough has just made a rate of 22s. in the £ for the coming year. There can be few boroughs in England where the children would benefit more by a stay in a camp for something longer than a fortnight. Can you expect a borough which has a rate of that size to shoulder 80 per cent. of the cost of taking these children to camp and maintaining them there? I am sure that no Member of the Committee would expect it. In fact if Jarrow did it and put up the rates, I can see the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) and one or two others getting up in this House to denounce the authority for wicked extravagance.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education will, as I asked him the other night oil the Second Reading Debate, bring to the attention of the President what will be the position of these local authorities on Tyneside—Jarrow, South Shields, Hebburn—and in the county of Durham and in South Wales, if they attempt to use these camps under the present grant regulations. I welcome the opportunity for getting children into these camps. Speaking as an ex-teacher, I believe that the more we can get children away from the atmosphere of the classroom into the open air and make them realise that education is not a thing confined to the schoolroom, the better for all of us. It makes their education a great deal more real, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will realise in this connection the very limited range that a child in the elementary school covers, unless it can get these opportunities of going to a school camp.
I recall when I was a teacher in Mort-lake, where I taught from 1906 to 1914, giving a lesson on hills and mountains, and I found that not a single boy in my class had ever seen Richmond Hill, which was only two miles away. These camps can be used to make geography and history and a good many of the subjects that do not appeal to every child a great deal more interesting, real, and connected with things rather than with words. But if we are to be rewarded by the Board of Education with nothing more than a 20 per cent. grant, I can see these camps being very largely used only by the 2408 authorities whose rateable value per child in average attendance is high. While I hope those will improve, the children who will benefit most will be those from the distressed areas and from the poorer counties, and unless this question of grant is dealt with I am sure the education authorities there will find it very difficult to avail themselves of these opportunities. I do not intend to touch on any other point to-day, because I want the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with the one point that I have raised, the anomaly that exists whereby the elementary school child will receive grant at the rate of only 20 per cent., whereas in Scotland every child and in England all children and young persons other than elementary school children will receive a grant of 50 per cent.
§ 2.28 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
There are several small points on which I would like some further information. Reference has already been made to the fact that the loans will have to carry an interest charge of four per cent. I take it that that is with the purpose of reducing the prices at these camps to as low a figure as possible, and although it is clear that 50 per cent. of the capital cost will be borne by the State, the other 50 per cent. will have to be repaid over a period of 20 years at four per cent. It seems to me that it ought to be possible to get money for this purpose at a lower rate than that, because these higher rates of interest on the capital involved press heavily on the charges which the camps are required to meet when they are actually running. If that is true, the same argument applies in respect to the proposals which have been made that in the founding of the camps care should be taken that they should be capable of enormous extension at times of emergency. I suggest that if the revenue-earning capacity of a camp, say, of a capacity of350 has to meet all the capital costs necessary for a camp with a population four, five, or ten times that number, it will be inevitable that a heavy cost will have to be charged on the number of people using the camp during the period of its limited capacity. Therefore, I suggest that some further attention should be given to the financial basis of these proposals, so that in these initial stages 2409 the burden falling on the camps is not so heavy in respect of capital charges as to make the prices out of all proportion to what they should be.
The second point that I should like to put to the Minister is this, that it would appear that the rate of extension and expansion of the camps is likely to be limited by the terms of this Resolution. I take it that it is the intention to build more than 50 camps, and that if this experiment proves successful, the companies will be encouraged to go ahead with building programmes making increasingly larger provision. If that is the case, it seems that the drafting of the Financial Resolution rather restricts any rapid expansion once the 50 camps are erected, because there is a definite financial limit of £1,200,000, and presumably new camps can only be created in so far as money is recovered from the existing camps, which then might be used for capital purposes for the construction of the new camps. I suggest that if that interpretation of the Resolution is right, it is a very hampering restriction on the increase in the number of camps for which we all hope from this scheme. We were led to believe that this was really the beginning of a much bigger thing, and, therefore, I would like to know whether it is intended that the rate of extension of the camps shall be limited, after the first 50 are erected, merely by the amount of money that is recovered in capital repayments from the existing camps.
There is a third point on which I would like to get some information, and that is the relation of any of the camps foreshadowed under the National Fitness scheme. It is a little unfortunate that there should be two parallel schemes in existence—the one that we are considering now and the one under the National Fitness Act, 1936. Under that Act a local authority could create a camp on behalf of its citizens, but it would be likely to receive a grant only up to about 30 per cent. It is obvious that if the company should embark on a camp for family holidays under this scheme, it would receive a grant up to 50 per cent. In that case the holiday camp under the local authority would be considerably handicapped, because of the additional capital charges which that camp would have to provide. One can therefore appreciate the uncertainty in the minds of local authorities in using their powers 2410 under the National Fitness scheme, and I would like the Minister to assure me that there will be some way of co-ordinating the activities of camps and their construction under the National Fitness Act as well as under the scheme that is contemplated here.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Just before the Minister replies I should like to take the opportunity to underline what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) about the difficulties which distressed areas will have if they are to be allowed only 20 per cent. grant in respect of elementary school children. In all the Bills relating to Defence we have made provisions recently for the raising and disposal of large sums of money. Much of the money will, in the normal course of events, be wasted. We do not want it to be used, but as it will have to be spent in the piling up of munitions that will be a waste of money. Nevertheless, a certain amount can be used for productive expenditure, provided it is used in the right direction.
I suggest that the amount of money provided in the Financial Resolution is inadequate to allow even the possibility of a small fraction of the number of elementary school children in the distressed areas to take the advantage that ought to be taken of these holiday camps. I would remind the Minister that in J arrow the rateable value is only £420 for a 1d. rate, and that it will be utterly impossible for Jarrow to find 80 per cent. of the money required for camps. As a matter of fact, at a time when the tuberculosis rate among children in schools is higher in Jarrow than anywhere else in the country, the town council, in order to prevent the rates rising has had to make provision to cut down the amount to be spent on dried milk, free milk and free meals. How will it be possible, under the scheme proposed by the Ministry, for Jarrow to provide 80 per cent. of the money necessary to take these children to school camps?
It seems very short-sighted to provide in the Financial Resolution for only so small an amount that children who are most desperately in need of fresh air and sunshine will not be able to take advantage of this opportunity. The Minister is also losing the chance of using a much larger number of the unemployed from 2411 these areas to construct camps. I see from the estimate in the Bill that he is providing for an amount in contributions in respect of wages, so that the unemployed can be used to a certain extent. I ask the Minister to give us some idea whether there is any restriction on that amount. Obviously, if a large number of unemployed can be used in this way it would have the double advantage of using unemployed for this necessary work and of providing the badly needed camps. I suggest to the Minister that the amount of money provided by Clause 2 ought to be much greater, to make it possible for consumptive and under-nourished children to benefit under the Bill, because they badly need to be provided for in greater measure than is the case to-day.
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
It is very pleasant for me to speak upon a Financial Resolution which commands the respect of the whole House. I am replying to this portion of the Debate because when we were discussing the general proposition the other day many hon. Members realised that the educational aspect of these camps was very important, and several speeches related definitely to that side of the Bill. I have been camping myself for the last 20 years, so I am extremely interested in this experimental Bill. The points raised by hon. Members can nearly all be answered by the main contention that the Bill is experimental. The many points which were raised by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and the hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) cannot be solved until we have had some experience with the actual construction of the camps—the points about laundry, food, heating, lighting and so forth.
I should like to answer one specific point raised by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), as to why there is a difference between the rate of grant in England and Scotland. I am somewhat interested in both sides of this question. The formula for grant is such that Scotland gets a sum of money equal to 11/80ths of the sum allocated for England. Most of the expenditure in Scotland is on a 50–50 basis, but I can assure the hon. Member that that has nothing to do with the Bill. That is a historical 2412 accident. So far as we are concerned, as the hon. Member knows well, 20 per cent. has for many years been the allowance for elementary school buildings in a very complicated formula. Camps for secondary schools have usually been provided by the boys and masters themselves. I know of hardly any secondary school in the country which does not go away to some sort of camp, either an O.T.C. or cadet camp or an ordinary leisure camp.
For elementary schools the provision which has been there for some time dealt originally with under-nourished children who could best profit by a stay in the country. The facts are that up to the present time there are only, I suppose, about 20 such camps provided by local education authorities and that of their accommodation for about 1,400 children roughly half is used for weakly and undernourished children. The others are normal children, because the authorities in their case believe in camps for their own sake. This is the situation that existed when the Bill, prepared for an entirely different purpose, came before the House.
§ Miss Wilkinson
The hon. Gentleman said that the camps were to be experimental, but surely he has the experience already.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The size and the nature of the proposed camps are different. In the first place, most camps hitherto, as the hon. Member for South Shields knows, have been much smaller and there has been more chance for intimate contact between teachers and pupils. Some very good unorganised leisure has been allowed, which is not so easy when you have to deal with 350 children. Many of the camps in the past, particularly those provided by local education authorities, have been substantially built, but the proposed camps, are to be wooden huts. Possibly the huts have to be camouflaged and possibly the whole siting problem has to be looked at afresh.
I will bear in mind the points made by the hon. Members for South Shields and Jarrow. It is a fact that, if the grant of 20 per cent. had been 50 per cent. in the last 20 years, there would have been more of these camps in existence.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I readily concede the point. I will bring to the notice of my 2413 Noble Friend the differentiation not only between England and Scotland but between those who go to secondary schools and those who go to elementary schools in England; and also the point in relation to the National Fitness Act which was raised by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones). The fact is that we are only just getting accustomed to the idea that it would pay the country and the education authorities to give a good bit more of their education in the country rather than in the urban areas and in the great congested cities to-day.
Some figures have been worked out and I shall be glad to give them to the hon. Member for South Shields. The cost of provision and management of these camps might be put at about 4s. 6d. per child per week, of which the authorities would be expected to pay half, that is 2s. 3d. In addition, the authorities would have to meet the cost of food and attendance—that is the point that was raised by the hon. Member for Derby. On an average this would be about us. 6d. per child per week. Therefore the total would be about 13s. 9.d. per week, and if we take the 20 per cent. of that off it works out at 11s. That is, of course, a rough estimate and I cannot give more approximate figures, but the rough cost to the education authorities would be 11s. per child per week. I have to consider not only the schools but those many juvenile organisations in this country and in Wales such as the boy scouts and boys' clubs. Supposing they could get a holiday for 11s. or possibly 15s. a week, they would be saving up throughout the year for a holiday in which they would be out in the open air and possibly near the sea. Such a provision would be a very great contribution to that rather neglected period between the ages of 14 and 18, between the time when the child is at school, with all the advantages which that means, and the time when it arrives at an adult age.
Various other questions were raised. The hon. Member for Shipley, who has had great experience in these matters, asked whether we could not do something now to bring about co-ordination between the various authorities who are providing camps. I think that could be done. At the moment there are local authorities which are going into the camp business. It is well known, for instance, that the 2414 borough of Lambeth is to do some pioneer work of this kind, buy a site somewhere down on the South coast and build for the people of Lambeth a camp for adults and indeed for children as well. There are on the Board men of great experience, for example, Dr. Gurney-Dixon, who is well known in the world of education, and also the Deputy Secretary of the Board of Education, Sir Edward Howarth, and when this Bill is in operation I have no doubt they will take advice from the many rambling associations and campers' associations in this country. The hon. Member for Derby raised other questions about the cost. I would tell him that nearly all those points about teachers and their expenses can be raised when the Bill gets into Committee. I hardly think it is for me to go into such details now. He further asked whether the teachers themselves would have to pay extra, feeling that it might be rather a burden upon them. The facts are that in the existing camps they have volunteered and they pay for their food only, which generally works out at a very reasonable figure.
The great thing to remember about the camps is that they will be partly for holiday and partly for school purposes. We shall have to work out in practice how far they will partake of purely educational and scholastic activities and how far there will be games, excursions, rambles and less of the ordinary academic activities associated with purely urban schools. As in most things I think there will be a common sense compromise. As these camps will naturally be situated in attractive surroundings, in the heart of the country-side, it will be foolish to keep the children inside with their books. Far better to let them get those advantages which the children are now getting in the rural senior schools. Therefore, I hope there will be school gardens round these camps, and opportunities for every kind of out-door recreation. An important point to remember is that this is one of the few Bills which will have even greater uses in peace time than in war time and I think that is why the Committee, which is so full to-day, will be pleased to give this Financial Resolution its unanimous assent and approval.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.