§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport and the Community, and urges Her Majesty's Government to give effect to those proposals which require Government aid or support; and, in particular, recommends that the provision of adequate playing fields, sports arenas, swimming pools and similar facilities should be undertaken by local authorities of all kinds and voluntary organisations working in partnership, together and with the Government, to expand opportunities for healthy physical recreation, both indoors and outdoors.I am very glad to have this opportunity of drawing attention to the Report of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport and the Community and of pressing the Government to give effect to its main proposals. Sport is a subject very dear to the British people. There can be very few families in the land which are not interested in sport or games in some form or another. Many millions take an active interest and are, therefore, to some extent affected by the Motion.
I think that it is quite appropriate that the Report should have been the product of an independent body, the Central Council on Physical Recreation, and not of any Government Department, because in this country, unlike some others, sport has always flourished as the result of voluntary efforts, and it was without Government aid and sometimes even in spite of temporary Government prohibitions that our ancestors developed the numerous sports and games which originated in this country and are now enjoyed in many parts of the world.
Indeed, I find that the earliest references to many forms of sport which are to be found in our history are almost always in the form of Government prohibitions against taking part in them. There are exceptions. One dear to my heart is the traditional football game played in Dorset by which the independent miners of the Isle of Purbeck maintained their right of way over a considerable area of ground. This has been done, I think, from time immemorial.
In the Middle Ages football, which was usually played on feast days and on an inter-parish basis, was a very different game from that which we know 829 today. It appears that every adult male available usually took part. There was no referee, there were very few rules, the goals were sometimes several miles apart, and a game took roughly all day, with the result that the number of casualties was sometimes very considerable. I think that is why successive Governments tried to stop it.
In the fifteenth century fines were imposed of 2d. a head on everyone convicted of playing football. This was a large sum in those days. However, by the time of James I it was found necessary to increase the penalty to one of imprisonment. Perhaps this was because it was said in contemporary reports that the playing of football was associated with "filthy tippling and extreme drunkenness". I think that, without regard to the alcoholic side of the matter, the old football games must have been rather more like what happens outside the turnstiles at a Cup Final than what goes on in the game inside the arena. In any case, it is a very long road from those early contests to the games that we are used to enjoying today.
Since the days of Elizabeth I all these games have been moulded into the forms that we know today by voluntary bodies working over the years on a district basis and with a minimum of co-ordination. One of the most important achievements of the Wolfenden Committee is to give us a useful and comprehensive survey of the present position with regard to these voluntary bodies which are playing such a very important part in sport throughout the country.
We take many things rather for granted—test matches, Wimbledon tennis, the Boat Race and the Derby; where should we be without them?—but they are based on voluntary organisations very largely conducted by people who are either retired or are in business and working part-time to organise these important events.
I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Central Council on Physical Recreation, which is one of these very important bodies, on the Report which was produced, and I think that warm thanks are due to Sir John Wolfenden, who himself is an athlete of international reputation, and his Committee, which has produced this Report.
830 The Report makes it clear that there are now two aspects to sport in this country. First of all, we have the many contests between experts, culminating in the Olympic Games, Wimbledon and other international contests. They are important on the one hand. On the other hand, we have the no less important games played by ordinary people in clubs or at sports grounds provided by their firms or at physical recreation centres. I think that this second aspect is every bit as important as, if not more important than, what I call the international sport aspect.
None the less, we must remember that success in international games such as the Olympic Games has become to some extent a matter of international prestige, and, whether one likes it or not, Olympic Games gold medals have become international status symbols very often acquired after years of dedicated effort by the successful competitor, but unfortunately, after years of dedicated effort in circumstances which differ very much between countries.
In Britain most of our athletes earn their living in the ordinary way, and a typical British competitor has to train for the Olympic Games or any other international event in the evenings and at weekends. On the other hand, an ever-increasing number of competitors from other countries, while complying fully with the regulations affecting amateurism, are full-time athletes who train mornings and afternoons as well as evenings. It is unlikely that this position will improve. I think, however, in this country we shall always set a higher value on a bronze medal won by what we regard as a true amateur than on a gold or silver medal required by a competitor whose prowess is due partly to the fact that he does not have to work and is, therefore, able to train all day if he wishes.
But if our athletes are less favoured than some others in this respect, I am sure that there is no reason why they should be further handicapped by lack of training facilities as is sometimes the case today. The Wolfenden Report draws attention to serious shortages in training facilities. I will not detain the House by going into the list, but there are a great number of things that we need from this point of view, quite apart 831 from any other. The British Olympic Association, entirely supported up to the present by voluntary contribution, has done a wonderful job in organising and helping British Olympic teams. I shall return to this side of the question in a moment.
The other aspect of sport to which the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee mainly apply is less publicised but, I think, from the national aspect certainly no less important. The Report makes it very clear that there is a big gap—it is so described in the Report, and I think it is a good description—in what I might call the sporting career of the young athlete—of any child who is interested in games or any other form of physical recreation. This occurs when the child leaves school. Until then the children have had the facilities offered at the school for organised games and physical recreation of many kinds, in which most children take part, and many of them become keen on some form or another, whether it is games in the ordinary sense, swimming or some other form of physical recreation.
Then they leave school, and quite suddenly all this stops and they have no organised games or physical recreation. Indeed, the facilities which they have used are suddenly denied them. They have to find some other way of taking part. In some areas this is not easy. In other areas where there are facilities, these are not sufficiently well known. The lack of knowledge of the existing facilities is a very important aspect of this problem. The boy or girl leaving school may be able to take part in sport at the firm's athletic ground. Those who can are lucky, but even there the newcomers sometimes have a little difficulty in what I call "getting in".
Those whose employers do not have sports facilities are faced with the problem of finding a club which engages in the form of sport they like, and then, having joined it, managing to find other people to take part with them; if it be tennis, to get a court or, if it be cricket, to get into the team—whatever has to be done. Many young people leaving school find considerable difficulty in carrying on with their favourite game, which has become a hobby and which they wish to make part of their life.
832 This side of the problem should be considered. I do not wish to develop a side issue here, but we all know that many young people at that age go off the rails. They are only a very small proportion, but those who do so become—to adopt an expression we use so freely—juvenile delinquents. I wonder how many in that group—large in number but small in proportion—who become delinquents at this early age could have been saved if they had been able to take up physical recreation or sport on leaving school in the same way that they were able to enjoy it while at school?
That side of the matter is well worth careful consideration. Anything that can be done to prevent our young citizens from going off the rails by offering them better facilities for sport, and making existing facilities better known, will be money well spent, and money that will pay a very large dividend to the nation.
How can we help to fill this gap? I believe that most of the essential work in providing facilities must be done by local authorities. It is very much easier for them to do it than for anyone else. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that I do not think that anybody can provide substantial sports facilities without the help of the local authority in any area.
Local authorities are the key to the whole question. In this Motion I suggest that they should work with existing voluntary organisations in partnership together, and with the Government. They have the knowledge of their own areas. They know the need, the existing facilities, the possibilities, and the methods by which facilities can be increased.
The voluntary organisations would help, I hope, in an advisory capacity, but also in administering the facilities when they were made available. This is already done in many places, but the process should be extended. Finally, the Government can help, as I shall indicate in a moment—and as, indeed, they are already helping to a limited extent.
I like to think that local authorities should take pride in their sports centres, and I know that come of them do. An attractive sports centre can be a great asset for any community; it may serve to attract visitors and be something in which all can take pride. This is, perhaps, more 833 widely realised overseas. I should like to think that in this respect we were leading the world, but I am afraid that we are not.
Perhaps I can quote the example of Copenhagen, which I had the pleasure of visiting years ago. Copenhagen, with a population rather less than that of Birmingham, has a sports centre which, at the time of my visit, spread to over 15 acres. It has facilities for almost every sport including, I think, two indoor tennis courts. It has a magnificent restaurant, and facilities for nearly every form of physical recreation that one could wish.
One of the most important features of that centre is that it is graded for age. One can be a junior member at under 18; if I remember rightly, one can be a still younger member at under 14. There are facilities for all these age groups so, to a large extent, they are able to get over the difficulty of a boy or girl leaving school and having to go straight into a club entirely administered by and for adults, which I think is sometimes one of the difficulties.
In some cases, at least, the difficulty of the school leavers is not only that there are limited facilities but that they do not know what those facilities are. A great deal more could be done by liaison between youth clubs, schools, local authorities and all voluntary organisations. I should like every boy and girl in their last year at school to be informed of what sports facilities there were in the neighbourhood. There should be some form of introduction to the club or sports centre in which they could most easily continue the game or sport in which they were taking an interest. That is really a matter of organisation and could be done without great expenditure.
We should not belittle the assistance already given by the Government, although I hope that they will soon be doing more. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will tell us that the Government are already taking considerable action—in some cases, rather on the lines I have suggested. In the last year of which I have a record, the Minister of Education provided rather more than £400,000 under the Physical Training and Recreation Act, and a rather larger sum in direct group grants to the Youth Ser- 834 vice. I am sure that the House will agree that these steps are on the right lines, but I should like to see more done, and I hope to hear from my hon. Friend that more help will be forthcoming.
I understand that, in addition, local authorities provided about £5 million in the last year, generally in helping with capital improvements for swimming baths, playing fields and such like, under the Public Health Act and under the Physical Training and Recreation Act. I wonder whether all local authorities are aware that this is a proper course for them to take?
The Wolfenden Committee makes a number of smaller recommendations which are in themselves important but which are covered by this Motion. I should like to refer to the main recommendation—it is, in fact, the last one—which is for the creation of a Sports Development Council. This is an interesting and important suggestion, and I have been considering it with some care. It is suggested that the council should consist of between six and ten individuals with sufficiently wide knowledge, but I think that there may be some difficulty in agreeing the final structure of the Council.
The Committee considered over forty separate activities, a great number of which are increasing their scope as compared with pre-war days. There is more demand for nearly all of them, and whether or not a small number of people could be found with sufficient knowledge of such a large number of activities seems to me to be an important but, perhaps, rather thorny question.
I think that this Sports Development Council will come about and that it will really be the crown for this edifice, but it would be unfortunate if, before implementing the other recommendations and dealing with the easier and simpler ways in which they could help, the Government decided to wait until the exact composition and style of the proposed development council had been agreed. The creation of this council may take a certain length of time. I hope that very prompt action will be taken on the other recommendations, and that help in other regards will not be delayed until the setting up of a Sports Development Council can be finally agreed.
835 I am taking this point quite shortly because I know there are many hon. Members who wish to speak on this important subject. It is proposed that the British Olympic Association and the four British Empire and Commonwealth Games Councils—that is to say, for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—should all have some degree of help. All these voluntary organisations work extraordinarily hard to raise funds, and very large funds are raised by voluntary effort. I think I am right in saying that in 1956 to take our Olympic Team to Melbourne we sent representatives of fifteen sports at a cost of almost £125,000, the whole of which was raised by voluntary effort. Some people feel that it is right that this money should continue to be found by voluntary effort, but the difficulty is that the Olympic Games and other games do not take place every year, but roughly every other year.
It is very difficult to maintain a voluntary headquarters organisation of unpaid part-time people who can adequately carry out such a prodigious and important task. Difficulty is felt in diverting money, which is primarily subscribed for the games themselves, to pay for the administration of the governing bodies—which, of course, is very important—and I think that the Wolfenden Committee is quite right to suggest that this is a case where the Government should offer aid for administrative expenses so as to allow the full amount subscribed to be spent on equipping and paying the expenses of the team. This is a very proper recommendation which I hope will be adopted. It is stressed particularly in the Report that it is felt that such Government action would not reduce the appeal to interested people and that there is very little risk of such subscriptions being reduced or terminated because of this action.
Then there are the Central Council of Physical Recreation and the Scottish Council of Physical Recreation, both of which bodies play an important part in co-ordinating sport throughout Britain. Not only do they co-ordinate it, but they promote and maintain national recreation centres, and these inevitably run at a loss so that more voluntary subscriptions have to be collected.
836 The Ministry of Education, I understand, has undertaken to help the proposed Crystal Palace centre, and it is thought that similar financial support might be given to the maintenance of other centres managed and controlled under arrangements made by the Central and the Scottish Councils for Physical Recreation. This is another proposal which I commend to the House.
The last of the important proposals, I think, relates to the National Playing Fields Association which does most valuable work, again run by honorary officials many of whom are able to give only part-time help. It is appreciated that help cannot be forced on any organisation which does not want it, but I think it would help if it could be made known to the Association, whose work is so splendid and generally recognised, that if it needs help in its administration it may have it. This would mean that the funds contributed for the playing fields could be spent on them and that this help would apply only to the actual administration.
There is need for speedy Government assistance. I should like to think that the Government would be able to implement these important but less contentious recommendations of the Report while they and others are still considering the question of the Sports Development Council which may take some time to implement. I hope that they will not wait until the last word has been said about that before pressing on with these other recommendations, and, in view of the great importance of this matter and the considerable general interest in the subject, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to accept this Motion.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir R. Glyn) and to congratulate him on selecting this important subject for debate and on the excellence of his speech. The hon. Member has shown an enormous interest in the subject and he has displayed his great enthusiasm for sport, particularly as it affects young people.
Although there are not many hon. Members now in the Chamber, there are some who are well known in the sporting world. First, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member 837 for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell), who is now back in the House. He is a well-known football referee who sees, as it were, both sides of the game, and I am certain that hon. Members join with me in welcoming him back.
I am also pleased to see the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton), a great batsman who is remembered by many people not only in Essex but in other counties. I hope that he will be able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, later in the debate.
The hon. Member for Dorset, North dealt very fully with the recommendations of the Report, and I wish to register my enthusiasm in this subject rather than go into details. Britain has always been a great sporting nation. We are proud of our love of sport. Whether they participate or watch, the majority of our people show an enormous interest in sports of all kinds, whether it be football, cricket, tennis or the Olympic Games. Britain was the pioneer of many sports played in the world today.
While I am on the subject of the Olympic Games, I should like to tell the House that Donald Thompson, who won the gold medal for walking in Italy, a world champion, is one of my constituents. He lives at Cranford. He is a young, keen chap, who works in an insurance firm in the City, who went to Italy and won for Britain a world championship; and I congratulated him on his victory. On 20th May he is opening a new sports arena in Feltham. I am certain that the House joins with me in offering him our best wishes.
Not only do we admire people who win championships, whether in England or abroad, but we take an interest in the ordinary people—one might say the back benchers of sport. We want to encourage these back benchers of sport, whether they play, football, cricket, bowls, tennis, or other sport, by giving them facilities which I am sure this Report, if acted upon, will give them. The Wolfenden Report will, I think, give a square deal to the youth of this country.
The hon. Member for Dorset, North referred to Europe. I have been abroad and have seen splendid sports arenas, 838 with stands with seats for the public, training facilities, indoor swimming pools, running tracks and every possible modern facility in small towns not as big as Leeds, Bolton, or Blackburn. We in this country lack facilities of this kind for our youth. I want the Government to support the Wolfenden Report.
What do we need, especially in some of the urban areas? Although there are swimming baths in some of the big city centres, there are not many in the urban and suburban areas. I want the Government to encourage local authorities to build either indoor or outdoor swimming pools. My local authority is anxious to build a swimming pool at Hanworth Air Park. It has been pressing the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to give permission for this project. I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government present. I hope that what I say will speed up this project.
We want more football and cricket fields, running tracks, and hockey and net ball fields for girls. We want the men and women who wish to take part in games over the weekend or in the evenings to have facilities to do so. I wish to make an important suggestion. Most of the professional football grounds have floodlighting. It is important that sporting arenas for amateurs should also have floodlighting. I do not think that only the professional teams should have floodlights. Assistance should also be given to amateur teams and youth and athletic clubs which want to indulge in sports at night. They need gymnasia and other sports buildings.
The Wolfenden Report made a number of recommendations. I warmly support the plea of the hon. Member for Dorset, North for a Sports Development Council. This could be linked with the Youth Advisory Council and great progress could be made. We have moved into a new age. There is more time for leisure, recreation and cultural pursuits today than ever before. No longer do people have to work 12 hours a day and also weekends. There is time for people to indulge in sport and other cultural pursuits. The working week is becoming shorter. Sport has always been a great characteristic of the British people, and they should be given the facilities 839 to enable them to play the games that they love in the parks and open spaces.
I therefore hope that the Government will speedily implement the recommendations of this Report. Often reports are pigeon-holed. I hope that this one will not be pigeon-holed, and that the Minister will give us some encouragement in this matter. The hon. Member for Dorset, North spoke about crime among juveniles today. I feel that if we could get the young people, especially as more will be leaving school in the next few years, into the youth clubs, and into sporting activities, there will be less crime. We often hear about the crimes of teenagers. We do not hear much about the many good teenagers who are taking an active part in the life of the country. We should encourage them. Physical sports are also good for the mind and body.
One thing about sport has always appealed to me. It teaches one to be a good loser. When I fought and lost my first election, someone said to me, "How does it feel to lose, Mr. Hunter?" I said, "In my youth, I played cricket, tennis and football, and that taught me to be a good loser." If we can teach our young people to be good losers as well as good winners, I am sure that we will be able to build a splendid, strong and healthy Britain. I am pleased to give my full support to the Motion.
§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Sir Hubert Ashton (Chelmsford)
First. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir R. Glyn) on introducing the Motion and on speaking to it so clearly and ably. Secondly, I thank the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) for his kind reference to myself. Like the hon. Gentleman, I welcome back the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell). He has moved from Birmingham, All Saints to Birmingham, Small Health. I do not know whether that is from the sublime to the ridiculous, but we are glad to see him back and we welcome his presence on the Opposition Front Bench today.
§ Sir H. Ashton
Neither of them is in the Cup Final.
840 I am sure that all of us who are interested in sport welcome the Wolfenden Report. Our broad approach to it, like the approach of the authors of the Report to whom I tender my thanks for their Report, is that international sport of all kinds is very important. What is particularly in our minds is that the greatest possible facilities should be available to the widest section of our community. We have built up over many years an incredible number of facilities for many different kinds of games, but they are, I think, rather unco-ordinated. Many of them had their origins in voluntary effort and I cannot emphasise too strongly the vital importance of voluntary effort in the subject that we are considering.
There are many new and modern sports, such as sailing, riding and mountaineering. They are all splendid. Forty years ago, when I was playing games, the sportsman of the year invariably was a footballer or a cricketer. Recently, a lady who rides horses and a gentleman who rides motor-bicycles received the title. These are developments which we must accept and which we welcome in many ways. We must also realise that in these modern days of taxation what we were able to achieve by voluntary effort fifty or sixty years ago is out of the question today. Therefore, we must have a happy marriage between voluntary effort and the official bodies, such as local education authorities, to whom I shall refer later.
The Wolfenden Report was fully debated in another place on 15th February. I should, perhaps, make reference to the reply which was given on behalf of the Government. I have been a member of the Essex County Council for the last fifteen years. During that time I have listened to many subcommittees and main committees discussing the allocation of public funds for sports facilities of different kinds. Casting my mind back, I confess that I have been a little anxious—no doubt I have contributed to this—that money has been spent rather in penny pieces and that perhaps we may not have achieved a great deal. I can recall a number of admirable societies of different kinds advocating that money for sport should be made available each year under the Ministry of Education 841 Vote. At the same time, like my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North, I do not wish to belittle the additional amount of money which has become available and the interest which has been taken by these local authorities, of whom there are 146 in England and Wales.
In my constituency of Chelmsford, for example, we are hoping to open a new running track, of which, no doubt, the local Member of Parliament could make good use if he found the time. On Saturday, I have the great privilege of being invited to the first cricket match at Harlow Stadium. All these things are going on, and we welcome them, but the time has come to pause for a moment to see whether, in going completely in that direction, we will achieve what some of us have in mind.
The Wolfenden Report referred to the governing bodies, of one of whom I have the honour to be president. Possibly, the Committee misinterpreted a little the powers of those bodies, and this may have an important bearing in considering our problem. In the case of the M.C.C.—and this applies, I believe, to the other major governing bodies—the club has been accepted, by common consent, on a world-wide basis as the authority or trustee for initiating changes in, and interpreting the laws governing, the conduct of the game, but it can make only such changes in those laws as have the support of overseas bodies, the county clubs, and so on.
Apart from this accepted legislative function, the club has no absolute authority de jure or de facto over the game as a whole. For example, it could not alter the laws regarding amateur status in cricket without the definite support of the county clubs. I do not propose to address myself this afternoon to the difficult problem of amateur status, but I would point out that the powers of the governing bodies are, perhaps, not as great as suggested by the Wolfenden Committee in its Report.
Another fundamental feature of the problem is the vital importance of coaching. This is possibly one of the key factors. I did not consider that the authors of the Wolfenden Report paid perhaps quite enough attention to this aspect, particularly in the case of cricket. Over the past ten years, the Cricket Youth Association, sponsored by the 842 M.C.C., has done splendid work, as those who have been to Lilleshall will have seen for themselves. It is an interesting sideline that their latest cricket coaching book has recently been translated into Afrikaans.
That brings me to the point on which my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North dwelt at some length, the vexed question of a Sports Development Council. There is always a danger of proliferation of officials or semi-official bodies to advise the Government and others on various aspects. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on the Front Bench this afternoon, because his Ministry also is concerned with the Wolfenden Report. If I may speak for a moment in another capacity, as Second Church Estates Commissioner, my hon. Friend will be aware that he and his right hon. Friend have numerous bodies—for example, ancient monuments boards—which submit an incredible amount of different and sometimes, possibly, bad advice about what the Church Commissioners might or might not do with certain churches.
Turning from that aspect to the question of a Sports Development Council, in the debate in the House of Lords on 15th February, the OFFICIAL REPORT of which I have read and reread with great interest, there was substantial support for something like the proposed council. I agree that other viewpoints were put forward. The voluntary organisations have done their best, and will continue to do so, but I feel that there is a necessity for a number of multi-sports stadia throughout the country. Unless we have a top-level co-ordinating body to put these barns, as the Report calls them—not, perhaps, a happy term, but we all know what it means—in the right places, we may find that if we have to deal with 146 local education authorities, with all of them grabbing the crumbs which come from their master's table, we have not achieved the best with the money that is available.
I fully realise that the Vote for education is rightly being increased, but the suggestion to devote £5 million of revenue expenditure and £5 million capital expenditure each year additionally is not unreasonable if we are to achieve the object that we all have in mind. It is 843 my view that some form of Sports Development Council would give imagination and drive to the spending of this additional money if perchange it became available.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity of intervening in the debate on this vital matter. I have endeavoured to touch upon some of the broader principles. I am, however, sure that it is the wish of all who are interested in games, whatever their political colour, that the Wolfenden Report should not be pigeonholed and that we may use it as a jump-ing-off point to achieve even more than has been achieved in the past.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
I should like to intervene briefly as one who came into professional sport at the top by becoming vice-president of a professional football club before ever going to a professional football match. That is, perhaps, an example of the way we do things in this country.
Today's subect is an important one, because it means a lot to ordinary people, of all types, not only to professional or semi-professional sportsmen, but to those who want to kick a ball around on a Saturday afternoon. We should not make the mistake of forgetting about those people when we think of the others.
The Wolfenden Report contains a reference to national prestige. We ought to consider this question carefully, because while the Report states that it would be easy to give to sport a national prestige out of proportion, as frequently happens, none the less we are in danger of underestimating the effect on international prestige of perpetual defeats in some fields and of growing victories by other nations. One does not want to turn sport into a political issue, but we must face the fact that to some extent sport has become internationally an instrument of political propaganda.
The nation has a job to do to ensure that, at least in the eyes of the world, it is able to compete on equal terms with sports teams from other countries. The activities of nations in international sport are followed with a great deal more interest than the activities of international statesmen at conferences. One understands why, but one should not 844 lose sight of the fact that it has important implications.
My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) spoke of the stadia which exist in other countries. Paragraph 88 of the Report refers to the multi-sports centre. Paragraph 87 reveals a great deal of what is wrong with sport in this country when it refers to multi-sports centres, which are so common a feature on the Continent. Last year, when visiting the Leipzig Fair, I took time off to go to the Leipzig sports stadium. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in this country to compare with it, yet that was in a country of 13 million people which, we are told, is economically backward.
The Wolfenden Report makes the point thatthese centres are not unknown in Britain. We have had details of a centre of this type existing in Sheffield; we have noted that several New Towns have ambitious plans for such centres—Harlow, for example, has recently opened the first completed section; Solihull has recently launched an appeal for a similar project.We all accept that we cannot have fine-quality sports participation, particularly in international events, without the provision of training facilities, facilities for the training of coaches and the rest, but, as the Report states, our own contribution in this direction amounts merely to one centre in Sheffield and a number of plans in various parts of the country.
We must face the fact that there is need for Government intervention on quite a large scale in sport. One cannot expect voluntary bodies to produce the kind of sports stadium that is essential. On the other hand, we could make better use of some of our available resources. Many sports grounds which are owned by commercial concerns and often by local authorities are under-used and could be used much more fully if they were thrown open more to the public.
Reference has also been made to the use of sport in trying to occupy that section of the community which, when unoccupied, becomes something of a menace to the community. This is a problem with which we are all faced. In this, as so often happens in many other fields, we tend to miss the very person who is most important—the unclubable lad who does not have a pair of white flannels, who does not play cricket in the proper way, and who merely wants 845 to knock around with a dozen or so other people. That is not sport in the usually accepted sense. I think that we should have the facilities for these people to participate without the degree of expertise which others should have.
Finally, I should like to see—this is probably controversial—the allocation of funds on a large scale from local authorities and dispersed centrally by the Government or a Government agency. I do not think that we can get local authorities to approach this problem effectively when they have to keep an eye on the rates. There is need for us to compete internationally. We can compete. We have people in this country interested in sport and we can put up a good show, but to do so we have to realise that the days when we could compete in the international field of sport by passing boxes around and running raffles for pots of jam have gone. This has become big business, and if we do not want to see it completely commercialised the Government and the nation have to accept the responsibility.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I, also, welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir R. Glyn) on selecting the Motion for debate. There is a good deal that we can criticise in the Report and it by no means covers all the ground, but that is not surprising when we see who were the busy men on the Wolfenden Committee and the comparatively short time in which they had to cover all the ground.
The Report puts forward some of the things which need to be looked at if the nation is to reap the benefit from healthy outdoor activities. I was interested to see, in the introduction on page 4 of the Report, some discussion on whether or not exercise is beneficial. I think that all that is necessary to put at rest any doubts on that score is to note what happens when a group of active, vigorous young men are deprived of the chance to work off their surplus energy.
In a warship of 1,000 men, for example—and this is not a bad analogy to a built-up area—if they have no outlet, inevitably there is trouble. In my personal experience, I have many times 846 avoided trouble by diverting the energy of these young men into the healthy outlets provided by games. Sometimes the results are almost dramatic.
It is perfectly true that many people seem not to need exercise, but it does happen that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of young people and others are drawn to outdoor activities if they can get them, and we must see that the means by which they can exercise themselves are provided. I believe that our basic approach should be quite simple. It should be to get as many people as possible, particularly the young, to take an active part. That may seem obvious but if we keep this in mind on this level, I believe that we shall get rid of many problems.
We need not concern ourselves with questions of professionalism or amateurism, or the training of world-beating teams or individuals. That should be left to the various controlling bodies. All we are concerned with is to increase the broad masses of people taking part. Of course, if we succeed, a rise in standards will automatically take place, but we need not concern ourselves with that. Nor should we allocate money for that purpose. If we keep this aim in mind, of increasing the numbers taking part, it will help us to decide how to allocate such resources as we have got.
Young people will take part in sport if they know how to do so. The Report speaks of the aesthetic pleasure of a perfectly timed drive or of any movement which co-ordinates eye and brain or muscle, and this is perfectly true, but what is equally true is that there is nothing more depressing that a badly timed drive, or, for example, than if one applies one's weight to an oar at the wrong moment. And if one goes on doing it there is no doubt that very soon one begins to avoid that sort of thing like the plague. That is one reason why so many young people give up these things when they leave school. The Report mentions the advantages of sport as part of school activities, and I agree, but there are two disadvantages. First, often far too much attention is paid to top performers and first teams. Secondly, recreational facilities are, of necessity, of only limited variety.
And here I say that we should get rid of the word "sport". "Sport" implies 847 games, and although they are perhaps the most important element, there are many people who do not like games, and there are other outdoor activities just as beneficial. The Report, no doubt because of lack of time, does not give a comprehensive survey of those other pursuits, but I, and I am sure many hon. Members here, can think of many.
What I have just said about games implies the need for good teaching, and I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ash ton) about this. We can lay down innumerable tracks and pitches, but they will not be used unless people drawn to that sort of activity are taught how to use them. Here we are fortunate. There are already many tens of thousands of old players of many sorts of games teaching the young generation and putting back into the game something they have had out of it.
These people do not want cash, but such things as a simple but a hot shower and room for two or three dozen to gather together. That will be a great encouragement to them and to their activities. These small clubs with a single activity are most important, and will always be necessary, but I believe that this Report does great service by drawing attention to the multi-sport centre. I am sure that if we are to induce greater numbers, particularly from the cities, to take part in physical activities we must have more of these centres, and I agree with hon. Members who have raised this matter. The individual gets a chance to take part in more than one sport. Coaching and changing facilities are easily organised, and, most important, social amenities can be provided.
I believe that the social effect of these outdoor activities should not be underestimated. It is no coincidence that the members of two teams, after a hard game, get together for a cheerful evening. The last thing that they want to do is to go out and cosh somebody. If all these things are properly co-ordinated the difficulties of location will be alleviated and to some extent the centres may become self-supporting. We should give attention to the provision of more of them.
The overall impression of the Wolfenden Committee's Report—and 848 this is borne out by my experience—is, first, the vast number of activities going on in Britain, and, secondly, the small amount of co-ordination among those activities, with consequent overlapping, waste and frustration. As the Report says:There is plenty of enthusiasm and of interest; but there is also plenty of frustration, dissatisfaction and, in some parts of the field, disillusion.That is true.
It is interesting to learn that the Committee had difficulty in finding out exactly how the money provided for recreation was spent, or even if the money was spent for sporting facilities. It appears that what is spent by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government could be accounted for, but that was not possible for the Ministry of Education, which also provides money. Nor was it possible to distinguish between capital cost and maintenance.
That sort of situation is wrong, and for that reason and many others I welcome the suggested establishment of a Sports Development Council. I would prefer to call it a "Recreational Council" because it should cover more than sports and games. It should also concern itself with such things as exploration at home and abroad, fishing, bird-watching, and a dozen other pastimes.
The Council need not interfere with the detailed work of the various governing bodies that already exist, but it is necessary for two reasons, first, to gather up all the loose ends of the vast range of activities in this country and to find out which are most in need of help and development, and, secondly, to control the spending of money. This must be closely controlled to ensure that it is spent for the purposes for which it was intended. There is a temptation for the controlling body of a particular activity to spend too much time on top performers and top teams, whereas we, of course, are concerned only with increasing the number of players.
If formed, the council would probably not require any more public money than is at present being provided. There would be more participants and standards would rise and, perhaps most important of all, there would be a dramatic fall in the figures of crime for young people.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
I thank hon. Members for their kind personal references to me. It is nice to be back in the House of Commons once again, and I hope that I shall not be too hard on the Government, and especially on the very pleasant hon. Gentleman who is to reply to this debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) on choosing this subject. It has been a short debate, but an excellent one, and I hope that it will lead to more positive action than seems likely from a reading of the debate which took place in another place on 15th February.
The hon. Member for Dorset, North gave a good history of association football and perhaps I should declare an interest in the matter, since I had the honour of being a member of the Albemarle Committee on The Youth Service in England and Wales, whose recommendations on this part of our sporting activities were unanimously endorsed by the Wolfenden Committee. I also have an interest in football and referees, and it was a delight to me to hear the hon. Member give a history of the pioneering days of football and also to hear him tell hon. Members that in those days there were no referees. The hon. Gentleman also informed the House that all the difficulties about which we read nowadays take place outside the ground and, on behalf of the 30,000 referees in England and Wales, I thank him for that observation. We shall no doubt make him a vice-president of our association in due course. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) for his very kind observations.
I do not intend to treat this subject too lightly. It is an extremely important matter. Sports and recreation are an integral part of the business of living, and I often think that in this country and in the House when we spend hours of our time discussing important things we do not always get our priorities right. What is life about if it is not to give us an opportunity of spending our leisure time profitably and fruitfully and enriching the whole human personality? As I see it, that is what sport is about.
My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham drew attention to the fact that sport encourages one to be a good loser. 850 On a dark day in 1959, after six recounts in the constituency of All Saints, Birmingham, when it was decided that I had lost by twenty votes, I was certainly grateful for the self-discipline that sport had taught me. I was grateful for the general tenor of speeches from the other side of the House today about the great character-building qualities of our sports which we as a nation ignore at our peril. We are in great danger today of ignoring them.
We in Parliament have the opportunity of providing facilities whereby voluntary organisations and so on can do this job. It has often been said, and it certainly needs saying again, that the last thing that any sportsman wants is political interference with sport and I hope that all of us would agree. I hope, however, that that principle, which must be jealously and firmly guarded, does not allow us to become complacent and indifferent about our obligations as a nation to help organised sport. I often think that it does. The great crime in sport and recreation is to prevent individuals, organisations and teams from fully reaching the height of their potential, and of that great crime this nation must be guilty on many occasions now, as it has been in the past.
I want to deal with three aspects of this subject—individual sports, team games and the spectator sports. It was on the subject of spectator sports, which are close to my heart, that I detected the one attitude that caused me a little dismay in this debate. We all want to encourage people to do things for themselves, but that does not mean that we ought to discourage the large numbers of people who are not able to play games, or who used to play games but who are now not capable of the physical endeavour required, from enjoying watching others playing them. There is a little snobbishness about this, and I should like to return to this theme later. I am all in favour of encouraging spectator games. They, above all, play a terrific part in the national well-being.
Mention has been made of coaching and I should like to pay tribute to the various organisations concerned. One must get hold of people at the right time. It is no good trying to correct people's faults late in the day. We have all played games, and perhaps golf is a noteworthy example, where the coach 851 tries desperately to cure long-ingrained faults. This applies to cricket and football, and it is important that we should help in providing adequate coaching.
But there are in this country hundreds of thousands of young people who try to get away from it all at the weekends. When I go footballing at the weekends and I see someone on the road who wants a lift I always gladly give a lift to the hitch-hiker who has a rucksack on his back. I do so because I know that these people are doing a job for themselves and I have always found them very decent people who should be encouraged. They go in large numbers to the mountains and the sea, but they are not being encouraged as much as they should be.
We all pay lip-service to the need for access to the countryside but little has been done to cater for the natural right of people to enjoy the countryside and seashores of England and to ensure that these places are available to them. It is an absolute disgrace that half of our seashores are not open to the public and that half of those which are open are so polluted with sewage and filth as to be unbearable when one gets to them. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is here today, because this really is the only way in which we the nation can help—by bringing in legislation giving access to the countryside and seeing that that access is available under reasonable conditions.
If I had money—I said this in the Albemarle Committee—and if I had to give it to one organisation more than to another in order to help young people enjoy recreation and leisure, I should give; it to the Youth Hostels Association. There is a great need for far more youth hostels than there are at present. To my mind, we and the Government are treating them disgracefully. Last year, the Association had a deficit of £54,000. At the moment, the Association gets a grant of 50 per cent. when opening a new hostel. It costs at least £10,000 to open a hostel of 60 places. In addition to the 50 per cent. grant, the Association gets an allocation of £10 per place, whereas, in fact, it costs £40 per place to equip a hostel
This is really an absolute scandal. There is a large number of potential 852 school leavers about to come into this field. How on earth do we think that they are going to employ their time profitably and pleasantly unless there is a terrific and dynamic move forward in this matter? I know that it is a matter for the Minister of Education, but I hope that the Ministers present today will take note of what is said and will try, if they possibly can, to get the Government to be more realistic about and helpful to the youth hostel movement, which embodies all the right principles.
The people who go to youth hostels do not receive luxury treatment. They pay their way and they make a contribution to running the hostels by doing a task. I think that, above all, as far as the individual, the lone wolf, or, to use the terrible word mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), the "unclubable" is concerned, the Youth Hostels Association can possibly do more than any other organisation in this regard.
Then there is the question of recreational facilities generally. Local authorities, perhaps, have the greatest chance of helping the nation with their parks facilities, and so on. The Wolfenden Committee, to whose work I wish to pay tribute, not only for the recommendations which most of us expected but for the content of its Report on sport which is absolutely magnificent and which virtually ought to be compulsory reading for any sportsman or anyone interested in this side of human nature, produced a first-class Report.
When we look at the figures of juvenile delinquency and at the number of people who are getting into difficulty, those of us who represent large cities and who try to find out the cause of this problem come again and again to one basic cause for most of it. It is sheer boredom as a result of people coming from offices and factories after their day's work and finding that the only alternatives for them are the coffee bar, the picture house, the dance hall and the street corner. These youngsters are physically more fit and better developed than those of any previous generation.
It is absolute lunacy, in my opinion, that at the very moment that workers leave their offices and factories, at 5 to 5.30 at night for eight months of the year, the parks of the country should 853 be closed. That is the very time when they should be floodlit and when organised games and other encouragement should be given to people to let off steam in the proper manner. That is a very important factor in tackling this problem. The amount of floodlit areas is absolutely disgraceful. The number of what the Albemarle Committee described as all-weather, hard pitches throughout the country, which after a good rainstorm can be swept over and used almost immediately, can be counted on the fingers of two hands. This cannot be right and it is something about which the Government might give a lead, might inspire, probe and provide financial help in order that the situation may be remedied.
There are some sports facilities which have far too much wear and tear. Take tennis as an example. I am not an enthusiastic tennis player, but I am impressed by the fact that there has been a tremendous increase in the number of people who take part in this game. But it is difficult to get a game unless one belongs to a fashionable club. The courts in the local authority parks are always crowded. I know that if I wish to get a game in the park near my home I have to go early in the morning to put my name down. Tennis is one sport where the players do not have to be brilliant performers, and two or four people who are mediocre players, provided they are evenly matched, can have a first-class game and derive a great deal of pleasure from it.
The position regarding halls where gymnastics may be indulged in is so bad and difficult that it is almost impossible to say anything about it in a debate such as this. Regarding swimming baths we are told that the Ministry is making good baths available. In the whole country we have only two swimming baths of Olympic standard, one at Cardiff and the other at Blackpool. I know that this is a" chestnut" now, but it is still the fact that Brian Phelps who did this country a great honour by winning a bronze medal for diving at the last Olympic Games has to travel from his home at East Ham to Cardiff in order to be able to practise in a suitable swimming bath. There are now four swimming baths in the process of being built and two about to be built, but none of them is up to 854 Olympic standards. I am told, and I accept, that economically it is difficult for any local authority to provide a bath which would reach Olympic standards. It would cost about £750,000 and it would involve a loss of about £50,000 a year. We do not want every bath in the country to be up to Olympic standards, but we ought to have at least one in every region of the country.
This is the sort of thing which could be taken up by a sports council and the provision of such a council is an idea which has been supported by all hon. Members. We require Government help and assistance in order to provide such things as swimming baths and other facilities for sport, and the Government should be prepared to spend money. But we do not want direct Government interference, and that is the best argument which can be advanced for the creation of a Sports Council. It could comprise people outside the vested interests concerned with sport and free of political control.
I do not accept what some people apparently do accept, that there is something wrong about international sport. There is a tremendous glamour about international sport, and a sense of pride is created by the achievements of our national sportsmen. When our athletes or our football team do well it is a matter of pride to the average Britisher who wants to see Britain first. It is disgraceful that we send athletes to represent us at international sports meetings without being trained and developed to the height of their potentiality. This state of affairs is a blot on the nation. This has nothing to do with party politics. We must do more for those people who try so hard and so gallantly to represent us in international sport.
I should like to refer briefly to the speech made by the Lord Chancellor on 15th February in another place. He said that although the Government had received the comments of the Central Council for Physical Recreation on the Wolfenden Committee's Report about four or five months ago, they were not yet in a position to announce their views. I hope that today the Parliamentary Secretary will be more forthcoming. All those who know anything about this subject are united in their belief that it ought not to take the 855 Government six months to make up their minds whether to accept the recommendations of an independent committee.
Prior to the 1959 General Election the Labour Party set up a working party on which I was privileged to serve. We produced a document "Leisure for Living". This working party made recommendations covering a wider field than we are considering today. Its main recommendation was that a Sports Council should be set up, with authority to spend £5 million in the first year to enable it to discover how much money was needed to deal with this problem.
It is said that imitation is the finest form of flattery. When the working party to which I have referred was ready to report, the Conservative Party set up a committee with similar terms of reference. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) was a distinguished member of that committee. It produced a report entitled: "A Policy for Leisure" which said much the same as the working party appointed by the Labour Party.
§ Sir H. Ashton
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that our report was published first. We had no knowledge of what was coming in the rather more voluminous document published by the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Howell
There was great suspicion at the time that because our report was held up for three months by a printers' strike, the hon. Gentleman's party was able to publish its report first. The important point is that both political parties considered this problem before the General Election, and both said the same thing.
Both political parties having agreed that a sports council should be set up, it would be reprehensible if the Government did not agree to our proposals. I am sorry to say this, but from the speech of the Lord Chancellor it appears that the Government are trying to shuffle out of their pre-election pledges and responsibilities in this matter. The Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Wolfenden Committee, which is an independent Committee, have said that we must have a sports council, and that it must have £5 million to get on with the job. It would be reprehensible if the 856 Government tried to shuffle out of their obligations, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman can assure us that that will not happen.
One or two hon. Members, in particular the hon. Member for Dorset, North, said that we should not belittle what the Government were doing for sport and recreation. I think that what the Government are doing is scandalous. At a time when we are dedicated to providing more and more freedom for people, and to bringing more colour and enjoyment into their lives, it is scandalous that the Government should put back into sport such paltry sums compared with what they take out of it.
The Government take £30 million in betting tax on football and a terrific amount through postal orders from people posting their pools coupons. There is also Purchase Tax on sports goods and Income Tax on profits of charitable organisations. If we add all these together, there must be a sum in the region of £100 million, but very little is used to extend sports facilities for the people. In the debate to which I have referred, the Lord Chancellor said that in 1956–57 £1.2 million was being spent by local authorities. He went on to tell us that that amount was going up in the current year to £7 million. With the Crystal Palace scheme of £2 million and some other things, a total of £18 million would be avaible for this purpose.
I am sorry to have to accuse the Lord Chancellor of "cooking the books", but it appears to those of us disinterested in the matter from the point of view of getting financial help for ourselves, but interested from the point of view of getting help from the community, that he is cooking the books.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
The hon. Member is making a severe party political attack to which we would take objection if there were time to do so in this debate. Will he explain why he is complaining bitterly that the Government will not release more money and yet he makes no reference to the great voluntary organisations such as the National Playing Fields Association and other well-known organisations, which are trying to provide large sums for this purpose? If he continues with a party political attack which is quite out of place in this assembly on this occasion. 857 I hope that he will be more moderate. Perhaps he can answer the question: if more is to be provided by the Government, to what form of organisation should it go so that in fact it could not be, as he suggests, the subject of political interference?
§ Mr. Howell
The last few words of the intervention of the hon. Member show that if he has been sitting in the Chamber during the time I have been speaking, he has singularly failed to understand a word I have been saying. I am trying to make the case for having a Sports Council. I do not think that he could have listened to what I said. I have clearly stated that we should have a Sports Council to help the work of these organisations—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies rose—
§ Mr. Howell
I will not give way again. I am not making a party political speech. I have gone out of my way to say that both political parties support what I am saying. The only argument is about how to implement the policies on which we are agreed. The hon. Member can draw his own conclusions, but I am not to be deterred from attacking the Lord Chancellor who, when he answered the debate on 15th February, was in charge of Government policy on this matter.
Half the £18 million is to be for education. Of all the education authorities of the country, only six allow their facilities to be used by people over 15 years of age. So £9 million of the £18 million is not payable to the sportsmen of the country about whom we are so much concerned at the moment. This justifies my claim that the Lord Chancellor was trying to cook the figures. In addition, I notice that the Government now claim credit for the fact that, at long last, local authorities are to be allowed to spend their own money. The Lord Chancellor made great play and, I have no doubt, the Parliamentary Secretary will make great play, with the fact that local authorities are to have loan sanction. I am delighted that that is so, but it does not mean that the Government are giving financial help. It means that local authorities are to be allowed to spend their own money. They certainly should be allowed and encouraged to do so, but what financial help 858 are the Government giving to sport, organised or individual? None of us knows that. We are entitled to an answer.
One of the first duties which a Sports Council should have should be to find exactly what facilities are available, to survey the field and to draw up a schedule of requirements as between one area and another. It is ludicrous even to contemplate putting the matter right when we do not know actually what the problem is.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with this point, because the Lord Chancellor said that he understood that there were two jobs which the sports council would have to do—to distribute Government money and to prod local authorities. If that is all that the Government think the Sports Council would have to do, they are singularly uninformed. It would have to survey sport as a whole, stimulate and inspire, promote and enthuse. It would have to make for itself a unique position in relation to sport which would be similar to the position of the Arts Council in relation to the Arts.
A grave crisis is facing our major sport, football, in which I am interested. After many years we now have a first-class international soccer team. We are now very hopeful that it will do well in the World Cup. But at this very moment, after the Football Association, the coaches and the players have worked so hard, and after many years of rather depressing results, and when the sporting public thinks that we are getting somewhere, we find that many of our leading players are being tempted to go abroad.
Johnny Haynes has just refused an offer, but Jimmy Greaves of Chelsea is about to go. This is a very serious matter.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Thompson) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Howell
I am glad that the Minister agrees. I am not blaming the Government for it, but it is a serious matter for the country. One reason for the better position in other countries is that their vast stadiums are provided by the municipalities, and the clubs pay only a nominal rent and are also allowed fabulous amounts of money to attract players and to develop.
859 An economic crisis faces football in this country. It may be that we need to adjust our ideas in many ways, but, although we should not have Government interference, a Sports Council would be uniquely placed to examine the situation and to find a solution.
I have taken more time than I had intended, but those of us in this House who enjoy sport and the company of sportsmen will continue to prod until we get better results out of the Government than we seem to be getting now. It is a great tribute to Haynes and to Fulham that they have sacrificed their self-interest in order to put Britain first, which is what they have done this week.
All of us in the House, irrespective of party, want to put Britain first in sport. I am satisfied from my own personal observation on the football field, and in other sports, that our young people are good enough to take a worthy place in international sport. It is up to us to allow them the opportunity to develop their talents. I welcome the Motion and warmly support the Wolfenden Report, which I hope the Government will accept. If they do not accept it, many of us will return to this matter on other occasions.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Thompson)
The whole House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) for choosing this subject for debate today and for the tone he set for it. No party line makes a sharp division across the Floor of the House on a matter of this kind, and I therefore have much pleasure in joining, both on personal grounds and in terms of the spirit of this House, in welcoming back the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell). It is characteristic of a debate in this House, as it is in another place, that there should be some among us who have specialised and expert knowledge of a good many of the aspects of any matter likely to be raised.
I welcome the contributions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton) and the hon. Member for Small Heath, both on grounds of their own merit and on those particular grounds. I am no great performer in any of these enterprises although I once 860 won a silver medal for swimming. The victory probably owed more to the handicapper than to the swimmer but I hesitate not in the least in claiming such little credit as remained for me.
I also join those who have complimented Sir John Wolfenden and his associates on the Committee in preparing this Report. I congratulate, too, the Central Council for Physical Recreation upon its foresightedness in calling for a report of this kind to be prepared at its expense. It is a very useful document. As has been said, it is beautifully written and it is very searching and incisive in its examination of the sports facilities available to our young people. I endorse too all that has been said about the service that we ought to be willing to render to our young people in making it possible for them to exercise themselves in healthy and invigorating surroundings and to develop such talents as they may have to the very uttermost.
What troubles me a great deal is the thought that this debate should end with the country convinced that absolutely nothing is being done. The tone which the hon. Member for Small Heath chose to set to the latter part of his speech was in direct contradiction to that of his earlier comments, and, I think, in direct contradiction to most of the facts; and it seemed to me to belittle a good deal of what has been done and to do less than justice to the situation as it really is.
It is true that all sorts of conditions are changing now at a more hectic pace than they have ever changed before. It is true that our young people today are bigger, healthier and more vigorous than they have ever been at any time in our history. It is true, therefore, that the demands that they are likely to make on resources of this kind will be greater and that the alternative outlets that they will seek if the resources are not available to them will be less attractive and beneficial.
It is true, too, that our young people have more leisure today than they have ever had before. But this is a comparatively new development and one which has made its impact on this situation in comparatively recent times. It is quite wrong for the hon. Member for Small Heath to give the impression that it has been direct and wilful neglect on the part of past Governments which has 861 produced a situation where there are more people today than ever before wanting to make more use than ever before of these facilities. These processes are going on together all the time, and it is a thoroughly good thing that that should be so.
My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, in replying to the debate in another place, went into great detail in informing the House of the aid which the Government give in one way or another to sports and recreational facilities. It was a little ungenerous, but not unimaginative, of the hon. Member for Small Heath to accuse my noble and learned Friend of "cooking the books". The simple fact is that the figures which my noble and learned Friend gave were strictly accurate and a very fair and honest picture of what is being done.
The hon. Member cannot pretend that he does not know that the money which is provided, whether by way of loan sanction or contribution to education or youth service expenditure, comes in the end from the common fund. There is no separate secret pocket which can be raided to suit some particular device or enterprise. The money, representing economic effort, is available only from the one source in the end. The fact is that the approvals given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government for 1961–62 total about £7 million, plus about £2 million for the Crystal Palace project, which has been referred to by several hon. Members; and rather over £600,000 has been provided by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland for similar projects in that country—a total of about £10 million.
In addition to this figure, there are the education authorities' expenditures. The hon. Gentleman seems to regard this as a separate enterprise which has no connection at all with anything else going on in this direction. That is not true. I agree that it would be very desirable if more local education authorities would see how far they could marry in their resources with the general needs of the community, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the amount of sporting facilities made available for any of the schools provided by my right hon. Friend is limited to the amount needed—calculated on a recognised basis—for the pupils attending the school. These same 862 considerations apply to technical colleges and establishments of further education, where the same sort of people are being provided for as are referred to by the hon. Gentleman.
I take the point, and the Government are well aware of its importance, that a great deal more is needed to co-ordinate the use of the various kinds of resources that may be available in any area. It is true that large industries very often have their own sporting facilities for their workpeople. It is true that the education authority in that area will have large playing fields attached to the more important schools. It is true that the parks within that area will have local authority playing facilities of one kind or another, and there may be other kinds of sporting and playing facilities available to the general public.
I think that we should all like to see greater co-ordination of the use made of these kinds of sporting facilities so, in the few minutes remaining to me, I should like to turn to the point which, as time went on, became the central argument of the hon. Gentleman and of some of my hon. Friends; that the Government should set up a Sports Development Council as recommended by the Wolfenden Committee.
Let me assure the House that none of the other developments which flow from that Committee's recommendations is being in any way held up by any Government delay in coming to a decision on the establishment of a Sports Development Council. Processes of Government grant are going on under the various existing heads. The question of a Sports Development Council, however, is fraught with all sorts of complications. It is not simply a matter, as the hon. Gentleman would have us believe, of nominating six wise men and bequeathing to them extensive powers with considerable funds and for the Government thereafter to stand aside to see what happens.
The principal bodies controlling most forms of our sport are important, and competent and well placed to do so. They have done extraordinarily good work in their own branches of sport, and it is good that the House should today have paid tribute to their work. That being so, it would not be right for the Government to impose over them some ill-defined or imprecise authority with its 863 resources. There are many considerations as to how far any such body should have power or authority to co-ordinate, or to compel co-ordination.
What we seek is co-operation, if possible, and in this respect I think that I can leave the House and my hon. Friends not too disappointed. What the Government want to see is this kind of co-operation aided to the uttermost. I am sure that the House would not want to fall over its feet in considering whether any new machinery that may be needed should be called a sports development council, an advisory council or anything else. We want to take time to devise the best kind of machinery for achieving the aim so carefully described and spelled out this afternoon, and which we are all very largely desirous of seeing achieved.
I hope that the House will accept that from me as going as far as we can in accepting the Motion. Meanwhile, I assure hon. Members that another opportunity will be provided as soon as possible for the House to consider what the Government propose to do, both in the light of the recommendations in the Report submitted by the Council for Physical Recreation, what was said in another place, and what has been said in this afternoon's discussion.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport and the Community, and urges Her Majesty's Government to give effect to those proposals which require Government aid for support; and, in particular, recommends that the provision of adequate playing fields, sports arenas, swimming pools and similar facilities should be undertaken by local authorities of all kinds and voluntary organisations working in partnership, together and with the Government, to expand opportunities for healthy physical recreation, both indoors and outdoors.