HC Deb 16 May 1958 vol 588 cc815-7

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

12.52 p.m.

Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am moving this Motion in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers), the promoter of the Bill.

This Bill deals with a comparatively narrow point. As will be well known, local authorities now have power to make gifts to certain organisations concerned with physical training and recreation. However, under the existing law, as I understand it, they do not have the power to make loans to these organisations.

The purpose of this excellent Bill, which was considered in Committee and amended, is to confer on local authorities the power to make loans to such voluntary organisations for various types of activities—towards the expense of providing and maintaining gymnasiums, playing fields, swimming baths and other facilities. It also includes power for a local authority to make a loan to a voluntary organisation for meeting any expenses of the organisation, being expenses towards which the local authority could make a contribution under Clause 1. In other words, whereas formerly local authorities have had the power to make gifts, and gifts only, the Bill proposes that they shall now have power, if it is thought desirable by the local authority, to make loans for similar excellent purposes.

There must be many towns and villages throughout this country where there exist hard-working, voluntary organisations which are doing a great deal of useful, desirable and necessary work. It has been a handicap in the past that although they have been capable of planning some scheme, such as those outlined in this Bill, which they are capable of themselves financing in the long run, in the short run they are unable to provide the necessary capital for launching the project. It would seem to be altogether praiseworthy that the local authorities should be able to make loans to organisations which can be repaid from the income they will derive from such schemes in subsequent years, rather than local authorities should be confined to having the power only to make gifts.

This seems to me to be a commendable step forward and one which all sides of the House will, I hope, welcome, because all of us are familiar with the great deal of useful work done by voluntary organisations in our own constituencies and elsewhere. For instance, in my own constituency there is a crying need for an indoor swimming pool. We have now only a small one which is run by a private school in the area. Some hon. Members might wonder why we want an indoor pool in view of the great facilities for bathing which exist in Southend at least twice in every twenty-four hours—not all the time, but when the tide comes in. We have an excellent open air pool, but there is this demand in my constituency, as I do not doubt there is in the constituencies of other hon. Members, for the provision of an indoor pool. If a body of interested people could be banded together, prepared to undertake such a project, and the local authority were in a position, not to provide all the money but to make a loan to start them on the process of the provision of this facility, it would be much welcomed by my constituents.

I do not doubt that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be able to think of many desirable projects in their own constituencies which would come to fruition as a result of the passage of this Measure; not as a result of increasing the burden on the ratepayers by the council paying the whole cost, but by the council making a loan to these voluntary bodies to enable them to carry out this excellent and desirable work of improving the physical training and recreation of the people of Great Britain.

In the absence of my hon. Friend, I have every confidence in commending this Measure to the House. I hope it will find a ready acceptance from those who are interested in the important work of encouraging voluntary organisations to provide these amenities with the assistance of local authorities through loans, instead of restricting them, as hitherto to gifts from local authorities.

12.58 p.m.

Mr. David Griffiths (Rother Valley)

I wish to support this Bill. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) in his wish for an indoor swimming pool for his constituency, despite its existing amenities, but I submit that this Bill will serve an even more useful purpose for many small authorities throughout the country who have not the amenities enjoyed by Southend.

I congratulate the promoter and sponsors of the Bill, and I would like to have seen it go even further. Nevertheless, it is an advance, since until now local authorities have been prohibited from making loans or interesting themselves financially in projects which this Bill covers. So it is an important Measure and one to which, I think, we should all give our loyal support.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.