HC Deb 23 January 1941 vol 368 cc300-1
56. Mr. Brooke

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he can make a statement on the progress of the Directorate of Physical Recreation since he announced its establishment on 22nd August last, so far as the physical health of the boys and girls of London is concerned; and how often, and on what dates, the London Youth Committee has met during that period?

Mr. Ramsbotham

As my hon. Friend is aware, the conditions in London during the last five months have almost wholly precluded the continuance of evening activities. Nevertheless, good use has been made of the week-ends to train leaders and maintain recreative activities for young people, and a successful experiment has been made in central London in lunch-time "Keep-Fit" classes for girls and women. Some 300 classes, including "Keep-Fit" classes, are being held by the local authority in public shelters, and the provision of dormitory shelter is being facilitated in boys' and girls' clubs, so that the work of the clubs may continue during the evening, or an existing public shelter may be partially or wholly allocated for the same purpose. One of the three new Recreation Centres planned by the authority for opening last September has been opened. The meetings of the London Youth Committee and the Borough Youth Committees, like those of other committees of the London County Council, have been suspended by the Council, but emergency arrangements were made to deal with urgent matters. These arrangements have, among other things, enabled over 60 applications for grant to be submitted to the Board, and the Board have made grants in respect of over 50 of these applications.

Mr. Brooke

As Parliament has been meeting regularly during this period, does my right hon. Friend see any reason why the London Youth Committee, to which he has entrusted these very important responsibilities, should not have managed to meet once during the last five months?

Mr. Ramsbotham

That is really a matter for the members of the committee. I have no power to insist on their meeting. The emergency arrangements have worked quite well.

Mr. Lindsay

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this question is really extremely serious, and that it is not true that the shelters have been provided? There are only two; one which I visited last night is uninhabitable, and the other has not yet been paid for. The magistrates in London are at the present moment becoming profoundly worried by the absence of any facilities caused by the closure of evening classes and clubs. Will my right hon. Friend see fit to take quite drastic action, because the matter is becoming more serious every night?

Mr. Ramsbotham

I will certainly look into it, but my information is that 300 classes, including "Keep Fit" classes, are being held by the local authority.