HC Deb 25 January 1980 vol 977 cc799-890 9.43 am
Mr. Jim Callaghan (Middleton and Prestwich)

I beg to move, That this House recognises the growing importance of leisure which will be stimulated by the silicon chip and other scientific and technical advances in the industrial and commercial worlds, welcomes the determination of the trade unions to respond to this situation by developing policies for early retirement, shorter working weeks and longer holidays, cial difficulties which at the present face all able of meeting the challenge which the situation will demand, and affirms its determination to sustain the excellence of the arts, theatres, music and sport, particularly during the financial difficulties which at the present face all those activities. It gives me great pleasure to introduce this subject. I have been asked by several hon. Members to give my reason for choosing it, having won a place in the ballot. Apart from personal passionate reasons—namely, that I lectured in the history of art and that I have a great interest in sport—two years ago I was fortunate to go to Japan with a delegation from this House and there I saw the shape of things to come.

"Where are the workers?" he smiled what I saw astonished and electrified me. I shall give one instance. We were taken to the Toyota factory. I am used to visiting factories in Britain. Nevertheless, what I saw there astonished me. We were taken on a gantry above the factory floor. All I saw were conveyor belts handling engine blocks. The engine blocks were being pushed, shoved, turned, twisted, bored, reamed and drilled, and other interesting things were happening to them without there being one person anywhere on the floor.

I asked the interpreter and guide "Where are the workers?" he smiled and said "We shall come to them eventually." We carried on walking and I kept asking the same question "But where are your workers?" Eventually we came to four individuals who were sitting at computers. They were controlling the whole factory. I smiled and said "I presume you have workers at the assembly point." The guide said "Yes."

When we arrived at the assembly point, all I saw were young people. I asked what I thought was the very pertinent question "Where is the older generation?" The reply was "We are trying to solve our unemployment problems. We encourage older workers to retire in their mid-fifties in order to provide jobs for younger members of the community. "I commented "That must cause problems for the older generation in terms of leisure time. How do you cater for that?" He replied "Yes, you are right. It is causing us terrible social problems."

As I said, I saw the shape of things to come not only in the Toyota factory but in many other factories. I saw the advent of chip technology.

We labelled the turn of the eighteenth century as the period of the Industrial Revolution. I believe that future generations will label the twentieth century as the chip revolution or the information revolution.

The Industrial Revolution brought great benefits to society, but, on the debit side, we are now becoming aware of its legacy—for example, pollution and unemployment. It is to be hoped that the new chip technology will provide us with a greater capability than ever before to predict the consequences of current technological developments on society, especially in terms of unemployment.

The impact of computing and automation on individual processes is aimed at producing more with less manpower. The acknowledgement by Government politicians and trade unionists of the need for efficiency and productivity demonstrates an awareness of this aim. That Governments are aware of it is proved by the fact that between 1972 and 1975 the Japanese Government provided more than £600 million in aid to their computer industry. The German Government, too, invested £390 million between 1976 and 1979 in their computer industry—and we are all aware of the vast funds that the United States Government have provided for computer research. All this new technology applied to industry and commerce argues that substantial changes in employment patterns are likely to occur. I tried to illustrate that point at the beginning of my speech.

One example that we can already observe is a significant shift from manufacturing to service industries in the United States. Today, over 50 per cent. of the American work force is employed in service industries. A similar situation obtains in Japan.

Britain faced a rapidly changing society many years ago, and there is enough evidence to establish that we are passing through a period during which our society must absorb many changes resulting from the continuing rapid developments in the technology of computing and communications.

Technology has brought and can bring many benefits to our material circumstances and quality of life as well as employment benefits. The real labour and human problems that stem from advances in technology must be tackled energetically by the Government and by industry. However, we must not lose sight of the advantages that chip technology can bring in improving our quality of life.

One of the tasks facing politicians is to keep Britain up with the leaders in chip technology while at the same time creating the conditions and the environment in which we may all benefit and prosper from the changes that are taking place around us.

The importance of leisure will be stimulated by the silicon chip and other technical advances in the industrial and commercial worlds. I welcome the determination of the trade unions to respond by developing policies for early retirement, shorter working weeks and longer holidays, together with the call for the creation of a leisure service that is capable of meeting the challenge that will demand to be met, if we are to sustain the excellence of our arts, theatres and sport, especially during the financial difficulties that now face all those activities.

The trade unions have an honourable record towards the development of the arts, sport and recreational activities. It is a record of which they may be proud. The Trades Union Congress in 1943 requested the general council to be mindful of the vital and decisive part that leisure will occupy in the lives of workers and the people generally call upon the Council to study the question of provision made for leisure activities. The general council criticised the disappointing response of local authorities to the Local Government Act 1948, which empowered local authorities to levy up to 6d. to provide adequate facilities for the arts. The 1974 Congress discussed a motion tabled by the Musicians Union that called upon the general council to establish a sub-committee for the cultural, educational and other qualitative aspects of British society. A working party was established to consider and make recommendations on the ways in which trade unionists and their families might be enriched by supporting and contributing to the arts.

In 1977 the general council agreed to establish an advisory body on the arts, entertainment and sport. It reported as follows: The Movement must intervene more positively than in the recent past in the public debate about the arts and other cultural matters. I agree with that. Although the trade unions have a good record, they could do even better than in the past. Such an intervention by the Trades Union Congress, which represents 10½ million trade unionists, could be a decisive factor in ensuring that the broad mass of our people have the opportunity to be enriched by supporting and contributing to the arts.

The trade union movement is alive and responsive to the profound implications of technological change on the working life of its members. It is gravely concerned about the shortsighted reductions in arts and sports expenditure, including the unprecedented cut in the Arts Council's budget and the disastrous increase in value added tax. I refer to the increase in VAT on theatre tickets and sports equipment generally.

These measures, together with public service cuts generally, and in local government and education services especially, will have a grave effect upon the maintenance of theatres, orchestras and other forms of live entertainment. They will result in a reduction in the quality of of life for present and future generations. The British theatre is acknowledged—I am sure that the House will agree with me on this—to be among the best in the world. However, the subsidies to the arts in West Germany were 10 times greater than the 45p per head spent by Britain on the theatres. Even Italy spends twice as much as Britain. Most Continental countries allow some, if not substantial, VAT relief on theatre tickets. If we are not careful, our live entertainment will become the exclusive preserve of those who can afford to pay high prices.

I ask the Minister with responsibilities for sport to take action and to give consideration to the serious losses to sport through taxation and rates. I ask him to launch an investigation into the present system which costs governing bodies—they are all voluntary and non-profitmaking—£500,000 annually in corporation tax alone, let alone the tax that VAT imposes on sports equipment. I ask him to recommend ways in which existing legislation could be changed or amended to create improvements.

I ask the Minister not to look for candle-end economies for the arts and sport that will yield a small saving while causing upset out of all proportion to the economies acheved. We do not want Scrooge-like policies for the arts and sport. I call upon the Government to remove VAT from theatre tickets and sport admission tickets and to provide realistic support for the arts and sport generally.

Overall spending on the arts and recreational activities is ridiculously low compared with the needs of society. The resources that are made available tend to be absorbed by large-scale commitments, such as the building of the new National Theatre and the extensions of the Tate gallery and the British museum. For example, £3.1 million was spent in 1975 to safeguard a site for the future development of the Royal Opera House.

The nature of these London-based prestigious art activities, while of great national importance, means that they can do little to make the arts more accessible to a wider audience. They do not contribute directly to the development of local and community arts. I recognise the need to popularise the arts, but I do not believe that that will be achieved by attempts to redistribute the already inadequate national resources available to the established arts. Only a substantial increase in national expenditure on the arts can lead to an increase in spending on regional, local and community-based arts.

The arts are labour-intensive. It still requires as many people to perform a symphony today as 50 years ago or whenever the symphony was composed. Meanwhile, the price of labour has been increasing more rapidly than any other factor of production. If labour of all sorts is increasingly expensive, trained and talented labour is still the most expensive sort. It is the type of labour on which orchestras and theatres rely. We still pay artists, actors and musicians extremely badly. We still get our arts, music and sport on the cheap. We expect to continue doing so because they have been cheap in the past.

Our artists, actors and musicians are still among the worst paid of our labour force, yet there are still those in the arts world who are content about earnings and content for cultural and sporting activities to remain the preserve of the few. Their influence and complacent attitudes must be resisted. The arts world must shed its aura of exclusiveness and be as accessible to as wide a cross-section of society as possible.

The cultural activities of working people may long have been neglected, but they are not yet dead. There is a real need for experiment in the form of provision for leisure, so that a greater proportion of the population can be actively involved. A policy that seeks greater cultural equality must be pursued vigorously and imaginatively if we are to overcome our inheritance of cultural disadvantage.

Significant improvements in the living standards of many millions of working people in the last century were achieved by the fight and struggles of trade unions. Now, the trade unions have the opportunity to fight for the development of the nation's artistic and cultural life. Trade unions also have an important role to play in defending against elitist attitudes of commercial interests to ensure that the opportunity exists for all people to experience or pursue excellence in activities of their choosing—brass bands, photography, ballads, sculpture or sport. The time is right for a major initiative to create a popular interest in leisure. I call upon the trade union movement to initiate a debate on the development of a national leisure policy, bearing in mind the consequences of chip technology on the future lives of working people. I call upon this movement to initiate a debate, because at present there is no national democratic forum for the discussion of arts, entertainment and sporting activities. A comprehensive policy can then be determined.

At present, only ad hoc policies have been developed and directed from above, with little reference to the collective views of local and regional authorities, sports bodies and those who work in the arts. We must involve the public democratically from below. When the trade union movement and the Labour Party call for early retirement, shorter working weeks and longer holidays for working people, plans must also be made to develop a leisure service. Even during our present financial stringency we must not accept that no action can be taken to support art and sporting and cultural activities.

Much can be done without increased expenditure. The TUC and the Government must use the present time to prepare plans for implementation when progress becomes possible in the future. We must survey the scene and seek an agreement on the order in which a leisure policy should be developed. Not very much expenditure is required for that. Such planning should be done at local and regional levels as well as nationally.

Before we can do that, however, we need information. We suffer gravely from the lack of adequate information about experiences in other countries. We also suffer in every part of Britain from lack of information about what is happening in other parts of the country. Better value would be obtained for money spent, and wiser plans laid for further progress, if a new autonomous institution for information and research were established which could supply national bodies and local authorities with facts and ideas collected systematically from inside the country and abroad—in other words, a review body.

Education, too, can provide a key that allows everyone access to cultural and sporting activities. Although for most people television is the major medium for disseminating the arts, it is limited in scope and provides no opportunity for participation. It is, however, unfortunate that drama, dance, music and sport have all been abandoned in secondary schools today. There must be a revolution in educational policy if the arts are to be brought nearer to the heart of the curriculum.

Arts, sports and recreation cannot serve the regions, either, without increased support from local authorities. The amount spent by all local authorities on cultural services in 1976–77 was £42 million, equivalent to a 0.46p rate—a very small sum. There is also a wide discrepancy on local support of cultural services. To encourage local authorities to increase their support, it may be necessary to introduce legislation to impose upon them the statutory obligation to initiate, develop and support cultural and leisure facilities. Local authorities that spend less than average on art and entertainment should be encouraged to introduce a 0.5p minimum rate, which could be spent on such facilities. That is not asking for much.

Some local authorities will oppose such legislation, arguing that the public are not so interested in cultural and leisure activities. To combat that argument, however, I point out that over 1½ million people visited the Tutankhamen exhibition in London and 750,000 people visited a similar exhibition of Chinese historical material. The interest exists. National and local museums and art galleries continue to play an important role in making the visual arts accessible to the public. Great steps forward have been made on visual arts, but much remains to be done.

It is a tragedy, for example, that while Manchester Art Gallery has a collection of 11,000 works of art, valued at £12 million, only a very small proportion of the work is on show. Only 400 of its 1,800 oil paintings can be viewed at any one time because of lack of exhibition space. It would be an even greater tragedy if the work on the redevelopment and renovation of the Manchester Palace theatre was halted because of lack of adequate financial assistance. When completed, the theatre will be of international standard and will serve not only Manchester but the whole of the North-West.

I implore the Minister and the Government to review the situation and to seek ways and means to finance the completion of the work on the theatre. I am not asking for very much.

On the national scene, I should like to turn the searchlight on the present administrative organisation in central Government to see whether it is possible to rationalise its functions and make it more efficient. It could hardly be less efficient when we review ministerial responsibilities. The Minister looks after the visual arts—music, ballet and opera, libraries, museums, galleries and the art cinema. The Department of Trade, however, has responsibility for commercial films. The Home Secretary is responsible for broadcasting and the press. In addition, together with the local authorities and the Treasury, he shares responsibility for the apparatus of censorship. The Arts Minister, through the Arts Council, is responsible not only for theatrical companies but for theatrical buildings, yet in the case of the national museums and galleries he is concerned only with their contents, while the buildings fall on the Vote of the Department of the Environment.

The whole silly set-up could have happened only by accident, and could not have been better designed had the object been to ensure the avoidance at all costs of cultural unity.

Fundamental change in this direction is necessary. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) tried to do something about this in a very small way in 1964. He tried to rationalise the position by establishing a Ministry for the arts. Early in 1965, the famous White Paper "A Policy for the Arts" was published. It was the most far-seeing and significant statement of Government policy on the arts ever issued in this country. Unfortunately and tragically, 15 years later there is still nothing coherent about the relationship of the Government to the arts. The whole area is full of absurdities, not the least among them being the division of departmental responsibility.

It was in 1964 that my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton created a Minister with responsibility for sport—the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). I am delighted to see that my right hon. Friend is with us on the Opposition Front Bench. Without wishing to embarrass him, I would say that it was an excellent appointment, equalled only by that of Jennie Lee as the Minister with responsibility for the arts.

Unfortunately, again, the position in sport is similar to that in the arts—present company excepted. There are numerous agencies responsible for various sections of recreation. These agencies provide facilities for recreation in addition to their main function—for example, the Forestry Commission, the British Waterways Board, the water authorities, the Countryside Commission, the Sports Council and the Department of the Environment, which has the guardianship of ancient monuments and historic buildings. They all provide for the enjoyment of the public, as does the Nature Conservancy Council, with the provision of nature trails in its reserves.

Thus, it can be seen that the central Government responsibilties for recreation and leisure are distributed among a number of Government Departments and public bodies that are answerable to them, such as the Sports Council, which I have just mentioned. Yet, despite the many hats that the previous Minister with responsibility for sport had to wear for the many functions that he had to perform—as chief rain-maker, snow-shifter and drought-ender—he did an excellent job, in his term of office, for sporting activities. All praise must be given to him for his announcement of an extra £2 million grant to encourage football league clubs to develop their grounds, not for themselves but for a wider use by the community, and to develop sport and physical recreation as leisure time pursuits in socially deprived areas.

The scheme was successful. Twenty-nine Football League clubs received aid under this football scheme. I stress that it was a community scheme. The main criterion for financial help was the desire of the club to be community-minded, with special emphasis on young people. The initial response from the clubs was overwhelming, and 57 of the 92 clubs in the Football League expressed initial interest in the scheme.

The last Minister for sport reacted with great determination and all speed when the previous Govennment's White Paper "Policy for the Inner Cities" suggested that simple facilities for recreation for young people might improve life for those who would otherwise be attracted to vandalism, hooliganism and delinquency. Through the regional councils for sport and recreation, the former Minister with responsibility for sport set up eight regional conferences to discuss the role of sport and recreation in relation to urban deprivation. As a consequence, the Government made a special allocation to the Sports Council of £800,000 to assist directly with recreational schemes in urban areas.

The social stress on many young people today is enormous, especially in the big cities. It is particularly important that facilities for sport and recreation should be such as can be used and enjoyed by the most disadvantaged sections of our community. By reducing boredom and urban frustrations, the provision of active recreation contributes particularly to the reduction of hooliganism, vandalism and delinquency among young people.

Equally, success in international sport has great value for the community, not only in raising morale but in inspiring young people to take an active interest in sport.

I have tried in one short speech to prove the necessity for immediate and urgent action to plan for the nation's future quality of life. I have tried to prove that the time has come for the creation of a new Ministry responsible for the co-ordination of policies and the promotion of research in the arts, sport, entertainment and leisure activities.

A Minister for Leisure should be appointed, to be responsible for all cultural recreation—the arts, libraries, museums, galleries, sport, communication and all other forms of leisure activities. The new Minister should have Cabinet rank and have a high-powered office—which would be responsible to him for maintaining contact—with two under-secretaries, one in charge of the arts and the other in charge of sport and recreation. The senior Minister would make it his business, in consultation with whichever of his colleagues was concerned, to ensure that funds for the whole range of expenditure on art, sport and recreation were readily made available. But his continuing aim would be to keep at arm's length from artists and sportsmen, resisting any temptation to prescribe a cultural and sports policy for the nation. In no way must the Minister be tempted to do that.

I have tried to show the need for a more coherent, generous and, I hope, imaginative approach to the problem facing us with the advent of chip technology. Although it will take time to work out such policies in detail, the need for further progress is urgent. There is a need for more systematic planning and a better co-ordination of resources.

In an age of increasing automation, bringing more leisure to more people—both young and old—than ever before will increasingly need the stimulus that leisure can bring. If one side of life is highly mechanised, another side must provide for diversity, adventure and opportunities to appreciate and to participate in a wide range of individual pursuits. An enlightened Government, with an enlightened Minister, will appreciate the problems and respond urgently to society's needs.

10.19 am
Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

In one way I am happy that you have called me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but in another I am sad. In fact, I feel so schizophrenic that it might be more appropriate if I were speaking from the Liberal Benches.

I am happy because I am the first Government Back Bencher to speak in the new regime of the earlier Friday morning sittings. It is a benefit not only to hon. Members with constituencies a long way from London to be able to get away from the House at 2.30 pm. Many London Members arrange interviews on Friday afternoon and evening and they will now be able to include participation in a debate, which otherwise would be denied them because of the difficulty of getting through the rush hour at 4.30 pm. I welcome this wise and sensible move.

My sadness is that I have to disagree almost wholly with the motion. There are many other Labour Members on whom it would give me greater pleasure to pour scorn.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

Where are they?

Mr. Page

Perhaps they knew that I intended to speak and pour scorn on the motion and they did not want the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) to be embarrassed by having too many hon. Members witness his discomforture.

I read the motion to a parliamentary colleague last night and he thought that it was a parody of a motion that Bernard Levin had worked out in one of his brighter fantasies, but I thought that it must have come from the pen of Monty Python. It represents the blotches on the face from which one can diagnose the British disease. The hon. Gentleman's interesting, thoughful and attractive presentation included nothing about how this country is to earn leisure. That aspect is desperately absent from the naive thinking of Labour Members

In recent years there have been many more people with enforced leisure due to unemployment and short-time working. There is plenty of leisure in the steel industry which has been caused by the dispute over the fact that the modern means of production in that industry, which are not even the most highly automated silicon chip means of production, are not being used properly to increase productivity.

The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich did not refer to the need for the TUC to urge members of affiliated unions to make use of new technology and improved working conditions to make more leisure available to working people.

There is a fear that the use of the silicon chip technology will create unemployment, but I see no reason why it should. I hope that it will "deproletarianise" the work force so that the laborious, dull, repetitive, heavy and unattractive jobs will be done by silicon chips and the workers who are displaced and who will, I hope, be educated by a wiser oriented educational system will be wearing white coats and suits and designing, marketing and applying the new technology.

In addition, my experience as a user of domestic appliances is that the more that one has, the more maintenance is necessary. There may in future be fewer people on the line in motor factories, but I am sure that there will be many more in the workshops mending the complicated machines.

A senior hon. Member once said in a debate "I have been advised—as a matter of fact, I have not been advised, but I know that this would have been the advice that I would have been given if I had asked." I take the same view about the computer industry. I suspect that the advent of computers has increased the general level of employment through the production, development, design and application of computers and not caused unemployment.

The former Minister with responsibility for sport indicates that I am wrong. I am sorry that I have not had time to find out whether my suspicion is will founded, but I believe that I am right. If the Bell telephone service in the United States had not adopted modern, automatic tele- phone techniques, every employed person in America would now be working the telephone system.

Mr. Tony Durant (Reading, North)

I support my hon. Friend's view about computers creating additional employment. A company in my constituency, which is a subsidiary of a computer manufacturing firm, uses three times the number of staff on the exploitation of computers and is making more money than are those who manufacture computers, because it is using white collar skills, and so on. I agree that the new technology provides work and is not to be feared.

Mr. Page

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for so clearly underlining my own feeling.

I wish that the motion had read: That this House recognises the growing importance of leisure which could result from the increased productivity and easier work patterns which will be stimulated by the silicon chip and other scientific and technical advances. That would have been much more acceptable to us all.

The hon. Gentleman demanded the appointment of a Minister for Leisure, and it has been the practice of the Labour Party to decide how to use the fruit from the trees, the bottling mechanism and the jam before knowing whether the fruit itself will ripen.

The motion welcomes the determination of the trade unions to respond to this situation by developing policies for early retirement, shorter working weeks and longer holidays". The hon. Gentleman spoke about the trade unions' honourable record in arts and leisure, but he said nothing, and there is nothing in the motion, about the leadership of the trade union movement urging its members to apply new technology.

The motion also calls for the creation of a leisure service capable of meeting the challenge which the situation will demand. The hon. Gentleman went a little far, even for some of his hon. Friends. He proposed a new Ministry, a new Cabinet Minister, and a Minister and Parliamentary Secretary devoted to leisure—not to mention three Parliamentary Private Secretaries. The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich deserves the accolade of the highest room in the ivory tower.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the number of Ministers that are to be involved in sporting matters is modest as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been obsessively concerned with nothing but sport for the last seven days?

Mr. Page

I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is listening to my speech so closely. However, I shall not go into his Olympian field, as that might get me into trouble with Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Using a modicum of seriousness, I would like to see a Minister with responsibility for sport in the Department of Employment. If he were attached to that Department, a Minister for Leisure and a Minister for Retraining could march hand in hand when greater employment and productivity are achieved.

Perhaps the hon. Member would like the new Ministry to be set up in a development area. However, that might be improper as it would remove leisure from a certain place. The most suitable headquarters for the new Ministry of Leisure might be Soho, a place devoted entirely to leisure and certain kinds of arts, such that it would have a four shift, seven-day bureaucratic week on the site of the old Windmill theatre. There might be a sign above the door saying "We never close"—or was it "We never clothed"?

The motion invites the House to affirm its determination to sustain the excellence of the arts, theatres, music and sport". To a certain extent, I agree with that.

Last night I read in the Evening Standard about the closing of the Carlton House Terrace gallery—an annexe of the National Portrait gallery. That might be of interest to my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke). The head of that gallery said that it had to be closed because it was difficult for people to find their way to it. He said that it was too far away. During the summer there has been an excellent exhibition of portraits by Lawrence, but that exhibition has hardly been seen although it is only about 100 yards away from Nelson's column. Why is that? I can find no reason.

It has been said that the Tutankhamen exhibition, the exhibition at the Royal Academy and other exhibitions had enormous success. The Lawrence exhibition had great coverage on television and it is surprising that more people did not go to it.

The former hon. Member for Bristol, North-West—Sir Robert Cooke—contributed greatly to the decoration of the House. He arranged to borrow pictures to decorate the Committee Corridor. It has been said that there are 10,000 pictures stored beneath the Manchester art gallery. All those pictures may not be of extreme value and perhaps every public building in Manchester should have a quota of them. I am sure that if insurance could be arranged such an event would be encouraging.

Mr. Jim Callaghan

The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) has come up with a sound and sensible idea. However, Manchester art gallery already does that in a limited way. The gallery has allowed many pictures to be hung in schools and local government offices. I welcome the suggestion that those pictures should be used in other areas, provided that adequate compensation would be available. I have lived in Manchester for most of my life, but it is a criticism of that gallery that its permanent exhibition is too permanent. I see few changes in the pictures that are hung.

Mr. Page

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman and I are in total agreement. When one goes to the National gallery, one looks to see one's six or seven favourite pictures. However, changes should be made more often.

I do not want to do too much place-name dropping this morning. However, when I was at the Shanghai conservatoire of music recently I was impressed by one aspect. I have a parable of participation to tell. There are people at that conservatoire who will be of world standing one day. They make their own musical instruments. The violinists make their violins, the viola players make their violas and the pianists make their pianos. There should be a greater relationship between those who play musical instruments and draw beautiful sounds and those who make them.

Perhaps some hon. Members do not know that I am a pretty major painter in my own right. Perhaps I should declare an interest, because I have sold one picture for £5. If the Government and local authorities are to spend money, that money should be spent in priming the pump of individual effort and participation.

Nothing makes me more sick than to see a brand new sports pavilion with the windows boarded up, because vandals will otherwise throw stones at the windows or spray pressure paint and scrawl all over the walls. If those who wish to take part in sport were given some money to build pavilions themselves by the local authorities or by the Government, those pavilions and facilities would be better cared for.

The idea of a new Cabinet Minister and a Department of Leisure is totally unacceptable to the over-taxed and hard-pressed electors of Harrow, West. What Harrow, West thinks today, the rest of the world thinks tomorrow—or even further ahead.

I oppose the motion, in case anyone outside the House, or outside this country, might believe that the thinking and impression underlying it reflect the new attitude of supporters of the Government, both inside and outside the House of Commons. I believe that the Prime Minister would have nothing to do with a motion such as this. She believes in opening the windows and letting in the icy, gusty, lusty, thrusty wind of reality and competition to blow away the sleep from people's eyes and the cobwebs from the machinery of our industrial life.

10.40 am
Mr. W. E. Garrett (Wallsend)

First. I must apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) for arriving five minutes after he commenced his speech. Like many other Members, I forgot about the new starting time. However, I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing the motion. Unlike the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page), I intend in my remarks to be a little more constructive and less negative. The House enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's pleasing contribution. However, he forgot to mention that the motion will give the House an opportunity not only to hear the Opposition spokesman presenting his current thinking about the problems of the subject under discussion but to have a rare opportunity of hearing from the Minister the Government's view on the matter.

In the post-war years we have come a tremendous way in furthering sport. I speak with some authority on sport but certainly with no authority on the arts. Although I appreciate some aspects of art, I would leave the ultimate dissertations on that highly controversial subject to people such as the hon. Member for Harrow, West, with his intimate knowledge of the Shanghai conservatoire.

One of the successes has been the co-ordination of sport by some local authorities. The development of sports councils, with varying degrees of success, has helped people who participate in many different sports to understand each other's problems. It has meant that the authorities that have taken the lead in initiating sports councils have also been able to persuade the sports competing for space and facilities to understand their differing needs.

However, we still have a long way to go, particularly in areas of heavy industry, where there have been varying degrees of success. There is a great need for the Government to re-emphasise the need to examine ways and means of putting pressure upon some local authorities which are indifferent to the need to establish strong, vigorous sports councils.

I live in the Tynedale area of Northumberland. The sports council operating within that authority's area is an outstanding example of success. However, in the United Kingdom we have always been somewhat behind in the development of sports facilities. In my parliamentary travels I have had the opportunity to look at sporting facilities elsewhere, principally in the totalitarian countries—East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. There is no doubt that they are ahead of us in providing facilities, particularly for the more physical sports. In the United Kingdom we have tended to drift along.

This brings to mind the period when I was a child. I was born and bred in a mining village. If the miners wanted a bowling green, they set to and made a green themselves. Of course, they had to have technical advice on the layout of the green. But even now, in 1980, I can point to examples of bowling greens, cricket pitches and football grounds which were all laid out and built by voluntary labour and which are all in excellent condition. Latterly, some have been taken over by local authorities. But the miners in particular, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, when no cash was available, had to do the jobs themselves. It is a tribute to the skill of those who advised them on the layout of those sports facilities that they are operating very efficiently today.

That brings me to the question of how we can use a lot of unemployed labour in areas of high unemployment. I should like to see some of our young people in particular being given the opportunity of working to modernise some of these facilities, and even to establish new facilities such as I have mentioned. Of course, some cash would have to be set aside to pay for the necessary expertise to help in the construction and layout. Certainly many people would do this voluntary work given the right encouragement. I should like to see some of the sports councils that have been established by local authorities being given some form of aid for this purpose.

Access to the countryside should be used to much more advantage. It remains a fact that many people within our population of 56 million do not get the opportunity to visit the countryside and to appreciate its beauties. On this aspect of the pursuit of leisure, more emphasis should be given to enabling the people of the industrial areas to enjoy the countryside. Young people in particular should be given more opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of fell walking and canoeing in some of the more remote areas, and the opportunity of using the leisure facilities that will be developed on some of the reservoirs that are being constructed.

The hon. Member for Harrow, West greatly underestimates the impact of the silicon chip and the new technology. I speak as an engineer. The decade of the 1980s, and even the next two or three years, will bring forth a burst of technology which will create more unemployment. We must face up to the fact. I am sure that the Government realise that this is an important matter. I am sorry to sound alarmist, but we could be faced with the problem of having about 1,700,000 people unemployed within the next three or four years.

I realise that some men will still be required to work hard in the mining of coal. We have not yet got that technology mastered. But those who will be displaced will feel less displaced if their waking hours can be spent doing something constructive. I have mentioned one point to which I am sure the Minister will give his consideration—more co-ordination of sports councils' activities and the development of other facilties which are so necessary. But we must get down to co-ordinating the facilities that we have.

One matter which gives me periods of frustration is that so many beautiful sports grounds in the United Kingdom are under-occupied. I refer to those which are owned by education authorities and local authorities.

Mr. John Page

Hear, hear.

Mr. Garrett

Many hon. Members have been members of local authorities. They will know the legal difficulties about using such facilities out of school hours and the question of insurance of the ground and the buildings out of school hours. The lethargy and inertia of successive Governments, and particularly education authorities, in trying to overcome this problem have caused me some concern. Possibly, because I am a former member of Northumberland county council, I should accept some responsibility for not being vigorous and strong enough to push the doors open so that these facilities can be used more.

In the United Kingdom we have some excellent sports centres. The former Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), deserves tremendous credit for pushing the principle of sports centres. I emphasise how greatly they are valued in the industrial areas.

It is always a source of pleasure for me to go to Wallsend sports centre on a Friday or Saturday night, not merely to enjoy the bar facilities but to see the various participants in so many sports. I enjoy watching the competition between teams from the North-East and other parts of the United Kingdom and the Continent. I have been pleased to see the development of sporting facilities for the opposite sex. An increasing number of ladies of different ages are participating in many active sports. There has been the development of ladies' football teams. Wallsend has a very successful ladies' football team that can knock the hide off any team that comes to the area.

This is the type of activity in which young secretaries and civil servants like to participate. They appreciate guidance in sports that were virtually unknown when I was a young man—fencing, decathlon sports, rifle shooting and golf. When I was a child, golf was the sport of the middle and upper classes. That is no longer so. The sport within the North-East has assumed a fantastic proportion. The previous Minister, to whom I must give credit, was helpful in establishing on the fringe of the industrial areas some successful municipal golf courses. Those in the North-East are used to the limit. I know that the Minister represents a Scottish constituency. Is it not right that in Scotland, long before elsewhere, golf was the sport of every social class?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Hector Monro)


Mr. Garrett

It developed ahead of many areas of the United Kingdom. I should like to see more opportunities for this sport. A golf course provides a fresh air lung in many areas. When people remark on a huge area of land around which four dozen people are hitting a golf ball, they forget that it is a breathing place. It is air. It is where nature develops. In the hedgerows and the rough are birds, rabbits and deer.

Another rapidly growing sport is sailing. I am not a sailor. I have a strong dislike of the sea. I enjoy looking at the sea from a safe place on shore. I realise that the North-East does not possess the best sailing facilities, because the North Sea is so rough. Sailing can be dangerous. But there is still a need to develop sailing facilities inland. Many of the huge reservoirs built and nearing completion in the North-East, particularly the biggest one in Europe at Kielder, on the border, can be developed for sailing. I should like to thank the former Minister for providing the cash to develop sailing facilities on the Derwent reservoir that adjoins Northumberland and Durham. It is greatly used and greatly appreciated.

This seems a sensible and useful way of developing our nation's sporting and leisure facilities. Above all, it gives people an opportunity to participate in some of the finer things in life. I should like to reiterate my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich for bringing the motion before the House. I am sure that other hon. Members will want to make their contributions.

10.53 am
Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

It is a rare privilege to be able to follow the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett), who made such a charming, wide-ranging and thoughtful speech, laying such emphasis on participation. It is this aspect with which I wish to deal. The one phrase that grated in the hon. Gentleman's otherwise charming speech was his remark that his right hon. Friend the former Minister had provided the cash. The right hon. Gentleman never did any such thing. It was you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I and all the taxpayers of the nation who provided the cash. This shows the enormous fallacy of the Labour Party's thinking.

It is the fallacy of the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) who introduced the motion. I congratulate him on bringing forward the motion. But his speech, wide-ranging, interesting and enjoyable, contained a great fundamental error. The hon. Gentleman talked of less taxation, less VAT and free theatre tickets for all. He must get his arithmetic right.

I wish to speak of the participatory sports, including the blood sports. No bones should be made about this. Angling is the biggest and most popular participating sport in the country. Fox hunting is enjoyed by all sections of society. Be blowed, I say, to motions moved by the Labour Party. Fox hunting today is a working man's sport.

More people are enjoying shooting today than ever before. More horses are used for riding today than in the latter stages of the economic life of the horse as the main method of transport.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

And working horses.

Mr. Wells

My hon. and learned Friend is right. There is an increasing number of working horses. One reads of farms run for town people to come and enjoy themselves ploughing by horse.

If I were a farmer, I would not much care to have a "townie" doing horse ploughing on my farm. But all honour, I say, to the chap doing it.

It is the participatory sports that we need to sponsor. They will never be sponsored by an increase in departmental administration. The hon. Member for Wallsend was so right when he drew attention—

Mr. Denis Howell

I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the only great boost in the provision of participatory sport came with the establishment of Ministers with responsibility for sport in this country.

Mr. Wells

Dear, oh dear. Those were the words of the Minister for drought and the Minister for snow—slush and rubbish rolled into one. Let us get this straight. People do not go fox hunting, riding, shooting and playing football on the village green because of any perishing bureaucrat. They do it for fun.

I was seeking to follow the hon. Member for Wallsend in his remarks about the weakness and wetness of some education authorities in making school facilities and playing fields available. We know the administrative difficulties. The hon. Gentleman rightly referred to them. But his hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich paid tribute to the attitude of the unions. I am afraid, however, that some school caretakers are really the problem. They are unwilling to allow school facilities to be open after hours and the education authorities are frightened of them.

I am fortunate in the county where I live and part of which I represent. I am glad to see in the Chamber one of the county councillors who may seek, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to catch your eye at a later stage. I believe that the Kent county council has a good record. I know, however, that some county councils are not nearly so good. I hope that as, for the time being, there is a Minister with responsibility for sport within the Department of the Environment, he will pass word to his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science suggesting that a circular might be issued giving guidance to education authorities on the matter.

I want to mention the need for improved facilities for motor rallying off public roads. We, as taxpayers, own vast areas of land administered for us by the Forestry Commission. I see no reason why some of the Forestry Commission roads in the South-East should not be used for motor rallying. This is so in the Midlands and in many other areas of the country. The Forestry Commission roads and amenities should be open day by day to different sectional interests. It is perfectly possible to allow one group of people to enjoy one section on one day and another group on another day without conflicting with each other.

The sport of motor rallying is causing less and less inconvenience to people these days as the RAC has improved its voluntary control of the sport. If it were possible to transfer more motor rallies to Forestry Commission land, this would be a great advantage.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I seek some information from my hon. Friend. Would he also wish to see the national parks included in this concept? He talks about land that is administered by the Forestry Commission. Nothing like sufficient use is made of the national parks. Therefore, would it be possible for them to be used also for motor rallies?

Mr. Wells

That would not be my understanding of the position. For a start, substantial areas of the national parks are in private ownership. The National Parks Commission is only an administrative arrangement, whereas the Forestry Commission land is in public ownership. There are roads through that land that are virtually unused, and as no one lives on Forestry Commission land no one can be annoyed by the noise. That is what it is all about—getting noise away from people. Therefore, I do not think that the two categories are on all fours.

I wish to speak briefly on one other aspect of leisure. I declare an interest as vice-president of the Inland Waterways Association. The British canal system is falling apart and it is essential that something be done to put it right, either with voluntary contributions or taxpayers' money. There is a beautiful exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall at present and we are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) for bringing it to the House.

I turn to the idea put forward by the hon. Member for Wallsend about people building their own sports grounds. We need this kind of participation for our inland waterways. We need people to help in their improvement and restoration. Much has already been done with the assistance of the trade union movement by voluntary prison labour. It is interesting that prisoners have been allowed to work on this and that the trade union movement has not stood in the way. But we still need millions and millions of pounds to get the canal system back to what it should be. In the financially stringent climate of today, this can be done only by voluntary effort.

I urge the hon. Member for Wallsend to come to Maidstone cricket week next year and enjoy the spectacle of the most beautiful cricket ground in England—

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)


Mr. Wells

Of course it is the most beautiful ground in England.

Mr. W. E. Garrett

I have spent many enjoyable days at Maidstone and I agree with the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells), but I would not wish to argue its merits with other hon. Members.

Mr. Greenway rose

Mr. Wells

I certainly will not give way. The matter is beyond argument. The Maidstone ground was constructed almost entirely by hand labour in the days of the depression and it shows what enthusiasm can do when people put their minds and backs into the job.

I apologise for criticising the speech of the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich, which was broad and useful, but he had a bit of a dig at local authorities and their slowness and niggardliness. I served on the library committee of a local authority more than a quarter of a century ago and we introduced a scheme for lending classical records. That was thought to be a far-reaching concept in those days, but now many local authorities foster music as well as the arts in other forms. I believe that local authorities are by no means niggardly. They do their best.

I may have misunderstood the hon. Member, but towards the end of his speech he said that music, dance and ballet had been abandoned in the curriculum of secondary schools. Surely he must be wrong.

Mr. Jim Callaghan

Perhaps the hon. Member misunderstood me. In junior schools there are considerable cultural activities, but this is not so among GCE and CSE entrants. If as many as 5 percent. of these students take cultural subjects, that is regarded as a high level. I do not say that the subjects have been abandoned completely, but simply that they play a very minor part in secondary schools and I regret that.

Mr. Wells

I am glad that the hon. Member has expanded his remarks. Of course, the subjects are restricted at GCE and CSE level, but many secondary school pupils take music, ballet and dance subjects as an optional extra. On Monday I spent a morning at one of my grammar schools and was most impressed by the considerable musical programme. I can only judge by what I saw and heard five days ago, and it seems to me that many pupils are taking these subjects for fun. That is what this debate is all about—people participating in leisure activities for fun and not for bureaucratic tidiness.

I apologise to the House, but I shall have to leave in a few minutes to attend church elsewhere in London at midday. I regret that I shall not be able to listen to many subsequent speeches.

11.7 am

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

I congratulate my hon. Friend and near neighbour the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) on raising this matter in the House. I know of his great interest in these matters and the way in which he has pursued them over many years.

I wish to speak of another participatory pastime or recreation—that of holding a public meeting. We must consider this subject on the widest possible basis, and the fact is that many people use their leisure time for political purposes. Many of us must be grateful that they do, because we rely on them to assist us, particularly at election times.

For example, the trade union movement, which is mentioned in my hon. Friend's motion, takes a very active interest in organising public meetings. Only this weekend in London there will be a political public meeting at which many trade unionists and others will spend part of their leisure time. However, they have been deprived of their full enjoyment to do so by the actions of the Home Secretary, who has made a special order preventing one of those people, whom trade unionists have invited to come to Britain, from speaking at that meeting.

I see that the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells) has just departed—he gave us acceptable reasons for doing so. He spoke of less Government participation and interference in leisure activities. If ever there was an example of negative Government interference in leisure activities, it is this one. A perfectly respectable Indian gentleman—

Mr. John Heddle (Lichfield and Tamworth)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) tried to raise this matter at the beginning of business today. Is it appropriate for him to raise it now in the course of this debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

I thank the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddlel for his help. I am listening very carefully, and I do not think that the speech by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) has much to do with the development of the leisure service. Perhaps the hon. Member will develop his argument along those lines.

Mr. Lamond

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am attempting to relate my remarks to leisure activities, which cover a wide area. We have just heard about ploughing, fox hunting, shooting, ballet and many other activities. There are almost as many activities as there are citizens. Each person likes to spend his leisure in the most rewarding way. People like their leisure to be enjoyable, and there is no doubt that there are those—and many of us in this House have to be thankful for it—who prefer to use their leisure time in political pursuits.

I think that it is perfectly reasonable to discuss whether the Government are right or wrong in encouraging these pursuits. Are the Government right—in a country that we so often boast of as being free—to prevent the free access of people who may have different ideas from ours—though we cannot decide on that until we have heard them speak—and who wish to speak to a large gathering during their leisure time this weekend?

Since we returned from the recess, this Government have prattled on about freedom and the need to protect it. For the Home Secretary, in the name of maintaining public order, to take steps to prevent the admission of a man to this country to speak at a meeting organised by trade unionists in their leisure time—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to have to tell the hon. Gentleman that I think that he is going wide of this debate, which is on a motion To call attention to the need for the development of a leisure service incorporating the arts, sport and recreation. I do not think that what he is saying has much to do with any of those three things.

Mr. Lamond

Far be it from me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to challenge any ruling—

Mr. Rees-Davies

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) is clearly out of order. Departure from or entry into this country can have nothing to do with leisure or sport. Furthermore, I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to take a strict line. This debate is being totally ruined by the hon. Gentleman, who walked into the Chamber just before he was called to speak. He arrived 30 seconds before Mr. Deputy Speaker appeared and he has the impertinence to disrupt the debate in this way. He is totally out of order.

I appeal to the hon. Gentleman not to behave in that manner to the House—or, on other occasions, we shall find ways of making life difficult for him.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I caught the tail end of the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond). I know that he is deeply concerned about recreational activities, as represented by the proposed trade union conference. The trade unionists are meeting in their leisure time. You will appreciate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the importance of people gaining access to this country in order to participate in recreation. That was my hon. Friend's point.

Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)

Further to that point or order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) can help us by saying whether the gentleman who has been detained is an entertainer.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Let me rule on these points of order. The hon. Member for Oldham, East, as an experienced Member of the House, will know that he must not abuse a debate by raising a matter on which he feels deeply but which has nothing to do with the subject. I doubt very much whether political meetings could, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a recreational pursuit. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Member will stick to the motion on the Order Paper in developing his argument.

Mr. Lamond

I accept completely, Mr. Deputy Speaker, any strictures that you make about my being in order. However, I do not accept the comments made, under a bogus point of order, by the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies). He took the opportunity to make a speech attacking what I was saying while pretending that he was raising a point of order.

Whether the hon. and learned Member was raising a bogus point of order or not, he was wrong to say that I had arrived 30 seconds before being called. I was in the Chamber at the beginning of the debate, though I have not been in attendance for all of it. I have been dealing with other urgent parliamentary business. However, I heard some of what was said by the hon. Member for Maidstone, and certainly more than 30 seconds of it.

In any case, the speech that I heard when I came in was ranging widely. We, as politicians, know that thousands of people use their leisure and recreational time to take part in political activities. I was politically active for 25 years before I came to the House, and that activity took place in my leisure time. I might have devoted that time to other interests, such as golf, of which I am fond and which is covered by the motion. I chose instead to pursue an alternative leisure activity, which happens to be going to meetings.

As for being entertained, certainly Mr. Romesh Chandra would be extremely entertaining if we defined entertainment as being something that gives pleasure, that one enjoys listening to, that enriches one's experience and is educational. Everything that Mr. Romesh Chandra would have done, had he been admitted to this country, would have fallen exactly into that category.

Mr. Cryer

Absolutely right.

Mr. Lamond

For Government hacks to jump up on bogus points of order and say that these matters should not be brought into the debate when only yesterday they were proposing to bring cultural activities to an end between the Soviet Union—

Mr. Greenway

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The motion on the Order Paper refers to a leisure service capable of meeting the challenge which the situation will demand, and affirms its determination to sustain the excellence of the arts, theatres, music and sport, particularly during the financial difficulties which at the present face all those activities. The speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) is a long way from that and is very unfair to hon. Members who have been having an important debate on a subject rarely discussed in the House. It is very unfair of the hon. Member.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am grateful for the assistance of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). Will hon. Members be kind enough to leave it to the Chair to decide whether the hon. Gentleman is in order or not? I ask the hon. Member for Oldham, East to return to the subject of the debate and not to pursue the question of the entry of a gentleman in order to attend a political meeting that has nothing to do with the debate.

Mr. Lamond

Mr. Deputy Speaker, the motion reads: To call attention to the need for the development of a leisure service incorporating the arts, sport and recreation". There is nothing in the motion that rules out political activity as being recreational. We on the Opposition Benches are trying to recreate society when we hold political meetings. If, therefore, there is doubt that political and trade union activities are recreational, I do not share that doubt.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

May I help the hon. Gentleman? We are discussing the motion that follows: …to move, That this House… He should read on from there. That is the motion that we are discussing.

Mr. Lamond

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the House recognises the growing importance of leisure. I also recognise that growing importance. For that reason I have participated, with other hon. Members who are active trade unionists, who are mentioned in the motion and who have organised the meeting to meet the demands of increased leisure time.

I can remember when I worked on a Saturday until 1 p.m. Today, Saturdays and Sundays are usually free. In order to meet the increasing demand for activities to fill that leisure time, political meetings have become more popular. Political meetings are now held on Saturdays and Sundays. The meeting in London that I have mentioned is to be held on a Saturday. Such a meeting would have been impossible a few years ago, when people worked on Saturdays.

Leisure time will increase further because of silicon chip technology. Perhaps in future political meetings will last for a whole week, like political conferences. When that happens, it will be essential to develop recreational and political activites, not just for trade union and sporting personalities from this country but for those from abroad. That is not an exceptionally revolutionary proposal. Many people from abroad take part in our sports and recreational activities. This weekend a number of sports meetings will welcome participants from abroad.

I wonder how Tory Members, who are so loud in championing their own sports, would feel if the participants in their sports and recreational interests were prevented from coming to Britain for no good reason, and allegedly to keep the peace. Would they feel aggrieved about that? Would they feel able to raise that matter in a debate such as this? I think that they would.

Some Government Members are not prepared to recognise other people's leisure activities, but that does not make the issue less relevant. I do not want to participate in ploughing matches, in boat- ing or in fox hunting. However, I do not object to Tory Members discussing those activities in today's debate. I object to Government interference in the recreational activities in which I like to participate. For that reason, I register my strongest possible protest against the Government. They pretend that they are interested in developing international exchanges and the maintenance of citizens' freedom, but they take a back-door method to try to ruin the recreational activities of others just because they do not approve of that activity. The man whom we are discussing must have a wonderful ability to sway audiences, otherwise—

Mr. Durant

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr.Lamond) is challenging your ruling, and that gives me cause for concern. I have listened carefully to what he has been saying in the last few minutes. Until now he was following your instruction, but now he is challenging your ruling.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have not had that impression.

Mr. Lamond

I would not attempt to challenge your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am glad that you have not had that impression. Like any hon. Member when asked to try to relate remarks more closely to the motion, I have attempted to do that. I am satisfied that I have got my point across. I thank you for your consideration in saying so gently that I strayed from order on occasions. I have done my utmost to keep within order.

I understand why Government Members are a little angry. In similar circumstances most of them would have tried to raise an issue that caused great anxiety and about which they felt strongly.

Unfortunately, I shall not be able to stay. As the hon. Member for Maidstone said, other responsibilities call us away from the Chamber at times. I shall do my best to listen to the Minister's reply, but I cannot guarantee that I shall be able to do so. I make my apologies in advance. I am sorry if I am unable to hear what, if anything, is said in reply to my speech. I do not want anyone to be under any misapprehension that I shall remain, because I may not be able to do so.

11.25 am
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I return to the tenor of the debate that prevailed before the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr.Lamond) participated. I should like to put the record straight. I invite my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells)—who has had to go to church, so he said—to the most beautiful cricket ground in the world. Without question it is Worcester.

It is about 23 years since R. A. Butler, now Lord Butler, speaking to an audience of London teachers, prophetically and remarkably said: In 25 years' time it is likely that the top 2 per cent. of the population will be working overtime to keep the remainder of the population happy, relaxed and integrated in the leisure time available to it. I reminded Lord Butler of those words about five years ago, and he stood by them. He said that he thought that we were likely to require the bright people to look at ways of ensuring suitable and fulfilling leisure pursuits for the remainder of the population.

As hours of work have declined in many industries, many people have not spent their extra time on leisure but have taken a second job. That is a great tragedy. It is sad that people think that it is necessary to use such time for work. They do not realise the value of switching off work to recharge the batteries, the better to work when they return to it. That trend takes away work that would otherwise be available to the unemployed.

It is vital to use the increasing amount of leisure time in a positive way. I congratulate the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) on choosing this subject, because it is one of the most central issues that society faces. We discuss the issue only rarely, and that is amazing and tragic.

I am chairman of the recently formed all-party group on the adult education service. That service is an excellent medium for developing services that can provide for the needs and aspirations of all sections of the community, not only out of public money but out of private finance. Recreational and academic courses of every kind are available through adult education. However, more resources are needed.

We must not allow the adult education service to die, as it is in danger of doing in some areas. The service is equipped to hold physical education, recreational and academic courses. Pursuing an academic, aesthetic or cultural interest can be of great recreational value. Such courses demand intellectual rigour and provide recreation of a rare kind.

It is amazing that if a person is not compelled to follow a particular pursuit he will regard that activity as recreational, and in that sense recreation can be achieved through the adult education service. To the credit of that service, those activities are provided in many areas at any time of the day to suit housewives and people who work odd hours.

I should like to see pensioners, the unemployed and others who do not work offered, as money permits and in addition to their emoluments, vouchers that would permit them to take up adult education courses. There is a great social danger in forgetting that pensioners, the unemployed, the disabled and others do not have work as a main activity in their lives. If society could fill that vacuum, it should do so.

It may be valuable for wage bargaining to take account of the need to provide recreational and leisure facilities. It would be most advantageous for working men to have available—the miners who provide their own bowling greens have already been referred to—that which would give them free access at certain times to recreational facilities to which they could take their families. It would not be at public expense; it would be part of their wages, as agreed in a pay deal.

Schools have a duty to prepare students to continue to learn throughout life, but they have not always fulfilled it. Learning is not simply a bookish affair. Learning comes through experience of every kind—from facing the rigours of ascending a mountain against all the odds of the weather, for example. I was a teacher for 22 years and I know that teachers want to cosset their students, protecting them from premature exposure to the harsh challenges of the world. Nevertheless, children should be inspired to get out and take on adventurous activities either individually or as part of a team.

We need to adopt new attitudes towards the use of land. Only 4 per cent. of the land in Ealing remains unallocated. The remainder is all to be used for building or some other purpose. I believe that house-building will have to take place elsewhere. We must not reach the situation that exists in East London—an area in which I spent eight years—where almost everything is covered with concrete. Land must be provided upon which people can move about and enjoy being in the open and using the recreation facilities that they need.

Houses have to be built, but they should be built on the 5,000 acres of dockland. One per cent. of London is covered by water, and we do not do half enough with that area. It should be developed for greater use.

There are other recreational requirements—those of walkers, ramblers, games players and horse riders. Building and concrete are sprawling over the country. An area the size of Oxfordshire disappears under concrete every 10 years. By reclaiming the inner city areas, we could avoid spoiling the countryside and the facilities that it offers. Access to the countryside is essential for all in their leisure time. It is also essential that those using the countryside should respect it. The teaching of that respect is the responsibility of the schools and leisure courses.

I have had a great interest in riding, particularly for children. I have sought to create riding courses for children from every kind of school—from special schools and schools for the blind, the deaf, the autistic and the physically and mentally handicapped, as well as normal children. What a great job Joe Royds, of Herefordshire—who runs a riding fund for the mentally handicapped on behalf of the national society—has been doing for maladjusted children.

I pay tribute to the job that countless riding schools do at no cost to the taxpayer. People go riding at all times of the day. The leisure is often self-financing. Riding establishments frequently pay unduly high rates and have difficulty getting rate relief. They get no help from the State for the excellent recreational and social job they do.

Perhaps I may also mention the valuable work of the British Horse Society in keeping riding establishments up to standard and in catering for the 2 million people who now ride in this country. In addition, horse riding has a massive following. There are the Royal International Horse Show, the Horse of the Year Show, and other shows, brought to people's homes by television with the voice of Dorian Williams and others. People get great pleasure from riding and from a general association with horses and ponies, or simply from picking up the atmosphere of the shows from television programmes.

A former colleague of mine organised a ride over the South Downs for 12 mal-adjusted girls who came from very difficult backgrounds. They started at East-bourn and rode for eight days over the South Downs, camping at night. Horses and ponies had been procured from anyone who would help. It was therapeutic for those children and did the horses good, as you will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from your interest in this great sport.

The Dartmoor Bill will remove such rights for riders. They will not be able to get on to Dartmoor, where both children and adults like to have access. For the first time, riding paths and rights of way will be removed on the moor, although those on foot will not be affected. This is disgraceful.

Mr. Denis Howell

It must be opposed.

Mr. Greenway

It must, indeed. It could be the forerunner of legislation for all national parks, since it has been tried on Exmoor and in other national parks. It is essential to retain the rights of horsemen. Not only horsemen are affected; the children who rode over the South Downs would not have had that right if such legislation had applied there. They would not have had the consequent boost to them individually, to their schools and to their families.

Others affected on Dartmoor include hang-gliding enthusiasts. Everyone is up in arms. The Bill must be opposed, and I hope that the House will reject it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear the murmurs of support from all around me.

I beg the Government to consider the limited definition of the horse as an agricultural animal, which affects grazing rights and the right to keep horses and ponies. It is time that the definition was widened. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will say something on this.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

There are varying interpretations of this matter by different local authorities. When it comes to planning, for instance, some take the view that the horse is not an agricultural animal. There is an absence of legal definition of the horse when it is used for pleasure. A proper legal definition is very important.

Mr. Greenway

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The matter wants straightening out. The horse, the largest domestic animal in the world, is more and more being pushed on to roads that are dangerous, and sometimes fatal, to both them and their riders. They should have access to the countryside. As Sir Winston Churchill said, the horse is man's oldest and most trusted friend.

The diversification and widening of the physical education curriculum in schools has been most exciting in recent years, thanks in part to the efforts of hon. Members of all parties. After three years of grounding in basic games and physical education, the fourth year and upwards of secondary education offers courses in all sorts of individual and team sports—golf, squash, mountaineering, riding itself, orienteering and many others.

Also exciting is the development of school journeys, which has given children, future adults, a way of learning how to use their leisure—winter sports, skiing, and so on. This has helped to widen their horizons.

Sixth form non-A-level time has been excitingly used for every kind of activity—art, musical appreciation, learning a second or third foreign language, and so much more. All this should be encouraged.

I resume my seat with the sincere and warm feeling that the House is behind just this kind of move.

11.45 am
Mr. Tony Durant (Reading, North)

I am delighted to take part in the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) on the thoughtful and helpful ideas he raised.

I have some anxiety about the underlying fear in the motion about the effect of the silicon chip. I mentioned the computer industry earlier. We are getting slightly hysterical in our anxieties about falling job opportunities. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) talked about 1.7 million people being unemployed as a result of the chip. Of course there will be a transition, but if we grasp the opportunities of this new technology we shall create new industries. We are the best exploiters of technology in the world. We always seem to realise the potential of a development. That is the way that we should be going.

A company in my constituency, a branch of a computer manufacturer, employs more people than those who manufacture the computers and it makes more money. Its influence is worldwide. There has been an enormous increase in jobs in the computer industry in my constituency. The Thames Valley is known not as "silicon valley" but as the computer software valley of the world. That shows the potential of the new technology. We should not be frightened of it: we should grasp it. We should learn from the way in which the Japanese have used this technology.

I am therefore slightly concerned about the anxiety in the motion, although I congratulate the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) on giving, us this opportunity to discuss it.

In his experience of visiting Japan, the hon. Member has seen the growth of the service industries. The same trend can be seen here. The great advantage of service industries is that they employ many people. That is a satisfactory trend when manufacturing industry is using fewer people.

I do not believe that the working week will be cut as quickly as most people think. There will be a gradual decline, but only over a period. However, holidays may be extended. If manufacturing industry had statutory holidays of three weeks or even a month, the firm could close down for that period. That makes more economic sense than shortening the working week.

I was interested in the hon. Member's views about early retirement. I once tried to find out why we retire at 65. The only reason that I could discover was that Bismarck had once said that we were old at 65. But nothing special happens to us at 65. We do not suddenly become old. We just seem to have fixed on that age. There is no reason why that age could not be reduced to 60 over a period of time. I am not averse to that, and it should be considered.

Leisure is important to society and private enterprise has a part to play in the industry. It must become more aware, in its own community, of the importance of participating with the local authorities. Good projects could come from a partnership of local industry and local authority.

Unlike the hon. Member for Wallsend, I like the sea. I am a boating man and am interested in everything to do with boats. As a nation of sailors, we are constantly looking towards the sea. There has been enormous growth in the boating industry. It entered this year's Boat Show with some trepidation, but my contacts tell me that it had one of its best years, even in the sale of boats in Britain, where a decline was expected.

A recent problem in the industry is that of moorings. I have been approached by a number of those who operate marinas and mooring facilities, who tell me that local authorities are becoming difficult about moorings. There is anxiety about that, especially on the South Coast. There appears to be a block on allowing sailors to moor their boats. It has become quite a problem for someone who buys a boat to find somewhere for it to be moored. I urge myhon. Friend the Minister to so speak to his colleagues in the Department of the Environment about that problem.

It is an appropriate week to speak of the British Waterways Board and the inland waterways. There is an exhibition upstairs, which I had the honour to open. There are some 2,000 miles of inland waterways in Britain. It is one of the best countries for inland waterway communications in the world. It is possible to travel to any part of the country by inland waterways, subject to their being open. Although they exist, some of them are not open.

Successive Governments have put to one side repairs to inland waterways. The latest estimate to restore them to standard is £37 million, which is an enormous amount in the present economic position. In fairness to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), it should be said that the previous Administration gave the British Waterways Board £5 million for urgent repairs, especially where banks were in a dangerous state and could have resulted in loss of life.

Mr. Denis Howell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. It is an important issue. I am sure that he will appreciate that the £5 million offered by the previous Administration was the first instalment of what we wished to do—and I hope the present Government will follow—namely, to meet the whole of the recommendation of the Frankel report.

The sum of £5 million was as much as the British Waterways Board could take on board in the first year or two. There was a commitment—that I know the hon. Gentleman would welcome—to meet the whole of the report's recommendation.

Mr. Durant

It is true that the British Waterways Board could not cope with more at that stage because of the loss of engineering skills, men and technicians to undertake the necessary repairs. However, there is still a sense of urgency. We need a continuing programme, on however small a scale, so that the British Waterways Board can plan for the improvement and development of the waterways.

The House may be interested in a few figures. The total earnings in 1979 from the 4,000 or 5,000 hire boats used by the public for holidays were about £18 million. With VAT it comes to some £20 million. That large sum is spent by ordinary citizens who hire a boat to take their familes on the canals for a holiday.

Staff wages run at between £6 million and £7 million per year, and a considerable number is employed in the industry. Although it is a small section, it is important to the leisure industry.

There is the additional benefit of those who come from abroad. About 7 per cent. or 8 per cent. of the hirings are to foreigners who visit our waterways. That is important for our balance of payments and for our general economy. It is estimated that every Jay in the period 1 April to 31 August about £200,000 changes hands. That helps the waterways and other industries involved. It is important to understand that.

When we discussed the matter at a meeting in the Grand Committee Room, we were delighted that a Member of the European Parliament said that the EEC was considering ways of helping our waterways industry. It would be of great benefit to receive help from the EEC. It is under discussion and is one of the most hopeful signs that resulted from the meeting. The waterways industry is important. It is something in which I believe and which I wish to foster.

I turn to a matter in which I must declare an interest as an adviser to the British Film Producers Association. I wish to speak of one aspect of the film industry in which I do not have a vested interest but with which I am concerned, namely, the Children's Film Foundation. It is an organisation that has made children's films of high reputation that are internationally known for their quality. The films are shown normally at Saturday matinees, although that is a declining area because of the children's other interests.

The film industry has blocked the use of these films in the ordinary circuit cinemas. That is a great pity. I urge the Minister to speak to the Department of Trade about finding ways to help the Children's Film Foundation to continue its production programme of high-quality films. We need film material of this quality for television and local consumption.

It is a pity that the grant has been cancelled. It is not the Government's responsibility; it is a decision of the Cinematographic Films Council. I ask the Government to consider talking to the council about whether it has its priorities right. I make that special plea because it is another aspect of leisure that is terribly important.

As many hon. Members have pointed out, leisure depends on the economic state of the country. It must be our first priority to ensure that where there is spare revenue it will go towards leisure. The best way to proceed may be to help industry to create wealth and then pursuade it to put its money towards creating a better leisure service. Many industries spend money on staff facilities such as swimming pools and sports pavilions. It would be useful to persuade them to co-operate with local authorities to develop more facilities for the community. More private money should be involved in the pursuit of leisure.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells) spoke of dual use of schools and caretakers. The right hon. Member for Small Heath appeared to disagree with him, although not vocally, by shaking his head. When I was chairman of an education committee, I was keen on dual use. I went all out to introduce it in my local authority. The problems we faced on caretaking were unbelievable. We had to employ another set of caretakers. That cut across our ability to foster dual use. Regrettably, the only way to get round it was to allow the schools to be used by private societies. That was not my intention. My intention was to open the schools to the general public. However, because of the caretaker problem, I had to get the local tennis society, for example, to use those facilities. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, there are problems.

Mr. Denis Howell

We cannot blame caretakers for the failure of the Department of Education and Science to ensure an adequate caretaking service. We cannot expect one caretaker to be on duty 16 hours a day, seven days a week. That is how long a school would need to be open. In the Midlands we were able to obtain agreement with the General and Municipal Workers Union that caretakers could be brought in from primary and other schools to do the overtime—because the caretakers rightly objected to working all that overtime day after day—to provide a comprehensive caretaking service. In that way we managed to keep the schools open.

Incidentally, Walsall did what the hon. Gentleman suggested. The authorities said that anybody who formed an organisation and would accept full responsibility for the safe keeping of the swimming pools and so on in the schools could make use of them provided that he agreed to close them at night. I think that that experiment should be further examined. I do not think that there is much between us.

Mr. Durant

I take the point that we cannot expect caretakers to work seven days a week. My difficulty, when trying to introduce dual use, was that caretakers were reluctant to have other caretakers on their premises. It took quite a lot of education to get them to accept other caretakers on their sites. They look upon the schools as their province. A caretaker regards a school as his own and he wants to run it. Therefore, there are human difficulties as well.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Voluntary organisations, which would be happy to undertake the caretaking as a voluntary act—indeed, first to see the caretakers so that they understand their responsibilities—are invariably turned down, because the union will not accept the intervention of voluntary services in that way.

Mr. Durant

I accept what is said by my hon. and learned Friend. However, I think that I should move away from the question of dual use. We have had a good debate on dual use in schools.

In summary, we must look at the economy and get that right and then divert our resources towards leisure and recreation. I believe that through partnership we can develop our leisure.

I am not keen on local authorities plunging in and building a concrete monster about which nobody is happy or wants to participate in. Co-operative effort always works better. People feel more responsible if they have contributed.

I was involved with my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Sir G. Page) in the Lotteries Bill. It was a pity that the Home Office at that time castrated that measure so that it was not as effective as it should have been. Therefore, the amounts able to be raised are too small. But the principle was right. People contribute and see their contributions helping the community in which they live. They take more interest in what is being done with their money. If it is done by some remote body, they regard it as somebody else's and do not mind smashing the windows. Therefore, a co-operative effort is the best way to approach this matter. I hope that we shall look in that direction in future for making use of increased leisure in this country.

12.5 pm

Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr.Callaghan) introduced this extremely important subject with great panache and skill. I accept much of the principle that he outlined, although some of the points may be subject to debate.

There is no doubt that there will be great opportunities in future for leisure and recreation. To present them as a need rather than an opportunity would be a mistake. Opportunities such as these, although involving problems, must be seized and positively used if we wish to create the kind of society that we want in future.

Mankind, from historic ages, has always desired more leisure time. It is common to both major parties and to the principles of almost all political parties that the less we work and the more we can devote our time to socially beneficial, culturally beneficial and intellectually and physically beneficial items, the better we shall be as a society.

I should like to make one point that does not relate strictly to leisure and recreation.

Mr. John Page

I take a slightly different view from my hon. Friend. I think that there is a total desire by people to take part more in work than in leisure. If people had to choose one or the other, curiously enough they would choose work rather than leisure as their main occupation.

Mr. Mills

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Many of my constituents consider that being a Member of Parliament is such a charmed occupation that it is recreation. I try to persuade them that it is a lengthy and sometimes tedious process. However, I take the point and will try to cover it in my later comments.

In the increased leisure time that we shall have, we must accept responsibilities for those less fortunate than ourselves—the mentally and physically handicapped and the old. The physically active members of the community must help those who are less active to participate in leisure and recreational pursuits.

In doing that, we must look to resources. How are we to achieve the resources? The only resources that will achieve that aim are the resources of human beings and their endeavours, the resources of Governments and local authorities or, I suggest, the partnership resources of private enterprise, wherever possible, on which I commented on Second Reading of the Youth and Community Bill. I do not believe that we have fully exploited the advantages to small and medium-sized firms of opening up the back of a factory as, for example, a football pitch, or of using parts of factories and offices for meeting places for young and old alike.

In Warwickshire, the development of small firms in old towns, such as Coles-hill and Atherstone, offers a unique opportunity to develop a partnership, with some Government and local authority urging but with the can literally being carried by the canning manufacturers and the people doing the work. That could provide a marvellous benefit to local communities. We could almost recreate the old village atmosphere. Communities, particularly in rural areas—rural communities have many urbanites who commute—could have an integrated life. The local firm would be not just a noise-, smoke- and smell-creating monster but part of the community offering leisure and recreation facilities.

We could achieve our intention of correcting the economic wrongs of this country by encouraging productivity not in a hammer, iron and fist way but by making the growth of small and medium-sized firms an integrated part of the community. Work would be more pleasant. If we can achieve with management and unions the flexibility that such firms need, productivity will rise because of the community's desire to be involved and to do better. This element of community spirit extending to productivity may be a small but important key in the development of more national productivity and wealth to allow us to develop the facilities that we want. In outer to afford the leisure and recreation facilities that we all want, we must create the necessary wealth. Flexibility will therefore be vital. This is not a small or simple problem.

I should like to mention one aspect that employment changes will make during the next few years. We shall have more small firms, because the large firms are contracting. Inevitably, we shall find that demographic changes of population will result in more older people being out of work, living on pensions and looking for an enjoyable retirement, and fewer young people being in work to generate the money to provide the facilities. Therefore, it is vital that we increase productivity and make use of the micro-chip revolution to catalyse this development.

Another change that is associated with leisure and recreation is the desire of many ordinary working families to live not in large, crowded housing estates, not in crowded urban centres, but in small towns and villages. That change is especially marked in North Warwickshire, as I frequently comment in this place. Over the past three or four years there has been a marked demographic change in the area. Many ordinary working people employed in the large factories in the Midlands are now living in villages; hence the need to provide a community focus.

There is a need to recognise that the aspirations of ordinary working people lie not only in organised games but in what has been traditionally the Briton's right—his countryside. In the development of the leisure and recreational system that we would like to enjoy, we must provide protection for areas that have not heretofore been considered parklands.

It is necessary for those living in the middle of my constituency to travel quite a long way if they wish to go to Wales. The Peak District, for example, is also a fairly long way away. It is the right of ordinary working families to have access to rural areas with rural facilities, such as bridleways and walkways, and a guaranteed green belt around them.

We must ensure that areas between great urban centres, such as that between Birmingham and Coventry, which encompasses my constituency, are protected. Such areas should be given a special environmental status—a sort of Midlands park area—so that those working in factories are able to reach open countryside to enjoy their pursuits by travelling 10 or 15 miles, or even less.

I can assure Labour Members that ordinary working people are interested, not only in traditional pursuits. Many of the young people using the North Warwickshire riding schools live in Chelmsley Wood. Very often their parents work on the shop floors of the Dunlop, Lucas or Leyland factories. Riding has become very much the ordinary person's sport. I have referred to the disabled and the handicapped. Surely we can use the equine's enormous ability to be kind to human beings to allow us to give more freedom to the physically disabled.

There is a need to create parkland and areas within existing green belt status land. National need or other strong motives can sometimes overcome the desires of planners to protect such areas, but such protection is all-important.

I shall leave the green belt argument to deal with one or two specific problems that seem highly relevant to the development of recreation and leisure. I have been contracted by the area council of the museum and art gallery service for the Midlands. The council is not concerned about the resources allocated to area councils—I fully support the Government's expenditure programme; I realise that money is finite—but is concerned about inequality of distribution. It states that there is inequality in distribution between the Midlands, which have a population of nearly 9 million, and Yorkshire and Humberside, which have a population of about 5 million. The cash discrepancy that results from the present method of distribution means that the Midlands lose about £33,000 while Yorkshire and Humberside gain about £84,000. I appreciate that that issue raises complex problems. I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport replies in writing. There is much to be done to ensure that Government funds are spent in the best way so that heavily populated areas have the museum and art gallery facilities that they wish.

I declare a past interest as the ex-chief designer of racing and rallying tyres for a commercial manufacturer. Motor sports popularity has resulted in a great deal of sport for many people of all ages to enjoy. Now that motor rallies have become much more self-regulated and have by themselves removed much of the offence that they created, I should like to see motor sport and other such sports, which have their base in good commercial enterprises, used abroad so that British products—for example, cars and components of all sorts—are given a boost. At the same time, those who are interested in such sports would be able to enjoy them.

There is a circle of necessity that will achieve the objectives of the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich. If we can integrate the development of better leisure and recreation centres with vol- untary and real contributions from small and medium-sized firms, with as much Government and local authority help as possible—preservation is sometimes more important than rebuilding—we shall be able to achieve better leisure and a better future for us all.

12.16 pm
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

I am glad to intervene in the debate after three first-class speeches from the Government Benches that brought the debate back to the high standard that was set at the beginning by my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan). My hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) also made an excellent contribution. I am sorry that we were seemingly interrupted by irrelevancies uttered from both sides of the House. I am also sorry that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) has left the Chamber. Although the hon. Gentleman's speech was extremely amusing, it was the speech of an iconoclast. His purpose seemed to be to try to destroy everything that those who believe in leisure wish to project.

Reference has been made to the economics of leisure. I held the office of Minister with responsibility for sport for 12 out of 16 years of Labour Government. I was expected to deal with the problems of hooliganism and vandalism that arose, for example, on Saturday afternoons. In my experience, we cannot escape the cost of leisure.

The choice is to spend to provide or to meet the cost of failing to provide. For example, on Merseyside £5 million worth of damage was inflicted each year on corporation property alone. There was not one indoor leisure facility on the whole of Merseyside. The two factors went together. If we do not provide and educate for a leisure service, we shall have to pay the cost of failing to do so. In many walks of life that argument is now emerging as the truth.

My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich has produced fresh thinking in his motion and in the debate, and he deserves to be congratulated by hon. Members on both sides of the House. That should be so regardless of whether we agree with every dot and comma of his motion and speech, although I find myself in almost 100 per cent. agreement. He has presented a penetrating analysis of the need for a leisure service.

This has been a week in which everybody has come to realise that sport and politics are irretrievably mixed. The same applies to arts and politics. That must be so as the Red Army choir has been banned from coming to Britain. If we were discussing those issues, the House would be full. However, there are about 18 hon. Members in the Chamber to deal with the real stuff of sport and politics and art and politics—namely, how to provide for the mass of people, our 50 million citizens, in an age of increasing leisure.

The hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) queried whether technology will produce greater leisure or greater unemployment. We now have well over 1 million unemployed. We are heading at breakneck pace for about 2 million unemployed. I am president of APEX, which deals with clerical workers. Its title is the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staffs. It has researched the effects of technology in greater depth than almost any other trade union.

I rely on the research office when I say that the conclusion has been reached that there is a steady deterioration in the prospects of work for the British people. The research office has spent almost all its time examining these issues. That must mean more leisure either voluntarily accepted or forcibly encountered through unemployment. In 1970 an unemployed 16-year-old was out of work, on average, for three weeks. Last year such a person was out of work for an average of 11 weeks. The position deteriorated by a factor of three in that short period.

The effect of the silicon chip and the word processor in offices will be devastating. The economic and social implications are probably most serious for women. In the 10 years to 1978, the number of women in employment rose by 8 per cent. to more than 9 million. In the clerical area there was a 21 per cent. increase in female employees. Now, one in every three workers is a woman. With the advent of word processing, we shall virtually eliminate at least half the number of shorthand-typists and secre- taries employed in offices. It will be possible for bosses to have machines on their desks, and they will simply press the numbers of the paragraphs that they wish to include in a letter and the letter will come out without any use of shorthand or typing. This will be the perfect letter for the boss to sign. That is the real world in which we are living—one of word processing and the micro-chip.

We estimate that by 1983 there will be 880,000 fewer jobs available as a result of the technological advance. There will be 270,000 fewer jobs in manufacturing industry, 160,000 in distribution—that figure has been rising but it has now levelled out—and 150,000 in the public sector. In the clerical and secretarial area alone, we estimate that there will be a loss of just under 600,000 jobs. We estimate that the increased number of people who will be needed to take advantage of office technology—word processing, and so on—will be 40,000. There will be a 40,000 gain on the technological side to compare with the astronomical losses which I have just outlined.

Mr. Durant

I am most interested in the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman and in the survey of his union, but how much research has been carried out by the union on potential new industries? His survey is based on existing industry, which I am not challenging, but I should like to know more about new industry.

Mr. Howell

That is a fair point, but I shall now turn to the report of the Confederation of British Industry, which has not yet been mentioned in the debate—perhaps because it was published only this week. Everything that has been said by my union and by the TUC is taken up by the CBI in its report.

I concede to hon. Members who have raised the matter that the CBI rightly attaches enormous importance to productivity. It says that technological evolution must accord with productivity. I shall read some of the headings of its report. The CBI says that if we are to meet the challenge of these times we should look at: 'Worksharing', Shorter working week, overtime limitation, Earlier retirement, Longer holidays, Shorter working lifetime. It discusses responsibly all those options, because Britain can no longer sustain in employment the work force available. There is nothing new about that. The Secretary of State for Employment said in a speech recently—I cannot put my hands on the source, but it stood out in my mind because I thought that it was an appalling prospect—that we must get used to the fact that some people in Britain will leave school and will never work in the whole of their life. Can there be a bigger psychological burden or a more terrible prospect than to know that one will never work?

Attitudes to unemployment must change. If people are unemployed through no fault of their own, they will have much enforced leisure time. That will bring with it the need to examine the educational curriculum. We must totally reorient our thinking to the prospects that lie before us.

Dr. Glyn

There is one factor that the right hon. Gentleman has not mentioned. We are an ageing population. There is a counter-balance because the number of people in work will, of necessity, be lower.

Mr. Howell

I shall deal with that point specifically later. One of the greatest needs of a leisure service is to provide for the earlier retired. Earlier retirement is essential. I include in leisure services adult education, because the more boisterous recreational activities will obviously be inappropriate for older people.

The inescapable logic is that we must move towards a greater leisure service. The debate deals with the organisation of the structure of government to do that.

When I was the Minister responsible for sport, I used to think—I am sure that my successor appreciates the point—that I was running every Department in the Government. Crises occurred in the Foreign Office. We have seen an example of one his week in connection with the Olympic Games. The Welsh Department and the Scottish Department had trouble with hooliganism. There were problems connected with sport at the Ministry of Transport. I used to rush round to the Department of Education and Science on the subject of sport in schools. I used to wonder what the Home Secretary was doing about hooliganism. When one holds the office of Minister responsible for sport, one really knows what power is about and what the people are about. Now, we should get on and deal with the real problems of life. That is what we are talking about today when we are discussing sport, art, and so on. The conclusion is inescapable.

There is time for new thinking. It is not new for me to say that we should have a Department of Recreation and Leisure Resources. I shall let the House into a secret. Just before the 1966 general election, when Jennie Lee and I occupied our respective posts, I had had one year's experience as the Minister responsible for sport. I had the presumption to write to the then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), saying that I had enough experience to know that the Ministries responsible for art and sport should be brought together. Separate Ministries were hot the best way in which to approach the matter. My right hon. Friend was like all Prime Ministers. He did not want to be addressed by a junior Minister on the machinery of government. I received no reply to my representations. I told him that I knew that on day one after a general election the Prime Minister fixed the machinery of government, and after that date no one could do anything about it. When I had dinner with him about nine months later, the then Prime Minister said that he thought that there was a lot of logic in what I had said but that it could not happen while Jennie was around. I said that I did not mind if Jennie was regarded as the senior Minister.

Even today, the Arts Council and the Sports Council hardly communicate with each other. Yesterday, I was on the telephone to the deputy director of the Sports Council when my doorbell rang, and the deputy director of the Arts Council walked in. I asked the deputy director of the Sports Council whether he knew the deputy director of the Arts Council. He said that he did not know him. Arts and sport are totally interwoven, especially when we are considering community provision, yet those two deputy directors did not even know each other.

The TUC has done much in this area. My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich was not quite correct in his remarks. The TUC has set up a working party. But local authorities must lead the way. The only result of local government reorganisation was the establishment of all-embracing committees—sport and arts, recreation and arts, education and the arts, or any permutation of titles. But they are doing the job, which we have not matched in central Government. We have not understood the tremendous social and economic importance of leisure in the lives of ordinary people. In this respect in central Government we are way behind, and I am as guilty as anybody. We have failed to adopt the approach that is needed.

There are regional councils for sport and recreation, but there are also regional associations for the arts, which are somebody else's responsibility. If our educational building programme is to make economic sense, it is nonsense not to design facilities for use almost 24 hours a day by the whole of the community, not just the school community. We should try to do better than we have in the past, with a sports lobby on the one hand and an arts lobby on the other.

I resent the idea that anyone who plays football is a cultural moron. That is not true. Sport is the culture of the mass of the ordinary people. People get just as much cultural uplift at Manchester United's football ground, Old Trafford, as they get in listening to the Hallé orchestra. Football is a different form of cultural uplift but it happens to elevate more people at any one time. Neither is to be despised. If we want good theatre and good music, we have an obligation to provide for good sport and good recreation—and vice versa.

Mr. Heddle

The right hon. Gentleman has just touched on the very subject on which, above all else, he is the expert in this House. His hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan), in his opening speech, mentioned the increase in VAT on tickets. Will the right hon. Gentleman, from his knowledge of football, say whether the increase in VAT on football match admission tickets has increased or decreased the attendances at football matches this season?

Mr. Howell

I am proceeding in a logical way and I have a purple passage coming shortly about financing all these things. If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself, I shall hope to come to it.

I am dealing at the moment with the structure of the leisure service that is absolutely essential and with the need for Government to do some rethinking. I am not urging now from the Opposition Front Bench that we should have a new Department of Recreation and Leisure, but the case for it is very strong and ought to be examined. It should not be dealt with as one of the frivolities of political life, as some people often treat it. For an increasing number of people it is the reality of life in their neighbourhood.

Then there is the role of the media. I have already mentioned the voluntary bodies—the Sports Council, the Arts Council, the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council, and so on. We hear a great deal about the problems associated with young people. We spend far more time in discussing their problems than in appreciating the good, wholesome young people that we have in our society. They do not get anything like the coverage in the media that they ought to get. We find very little in the media about their sponsored walks, their voluntary initiatives and their general endeavour. For heaven's sake, let us get a sense of proportion and balance in our reporting.

In television advertising, young people are addressed by the food interests, the drink interests, the tobacco interests, the clothing interests, the motor car interests and the travel interests. But what is being done by the statutory bodies whose job is to elevate and inspire young people to do the sorts of things that they will find helpful to themselves and that society will find worth while? The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) had something to say on this aspect. When the Sports Council and the Countryside Commission take time on television, it is only to tell people what not to do. They talk about a code of conduct, instructing people how to behave on the water and in the countryside. Will the Minister consider giving these bodies a small budget so that they can go on to the attack on television in a positive way, telling young people of the opportunities available for them to get into the countryside and about the sports which are available?

There are many people who would like to do things but who do not seem to have the courage. British people are in the main very conservative—I emphasise, conservative with a small "c". When I was on my last holiday on Dartmoor, it was marvellous to find that the Countryside Commission had put up notices telling people to get out of their cars and to take part in walks of one, two or three hours' duration around Dartmoor. Large numbers of people are responding to this appeal. It shows that if we can open up the minds of our citizens, we can do an enormous amount of good in that kind of way.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, West)

I am worried about what the right hon. Gentleman said about advertising. He mentioned the advertisements from the food industry and the car industry that are put in front of our young people. Surely, these very companies and advertisers are providing much of the money that is being used for the sports facilities. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would want to improve those facilities.

Mr. Howell

I am not knocking them. I am only saying that the advertisements are not balanced. Indeed, I am involved in getting sponsorship for sport out of tobacco companies. I did so also when I was a Minister, so I am consistent in that respect. I am very glad that they are doing it, because the State has not provided sufficient money. I am arguing that we must have a balanced approach. We should not leave it all to the commercial concerns. The statutory bodies, whose duty it is to open up sport, art and recreation, ought to be given a reasonable advertising budget, because advertising is the best way of reaching large numbers of people who would otherwise never think of taking up the various opportunities.

In this context, education is of tremendous importance. The hon. Member for Ealing, North referred to the learning process. That is what school is all about. There are two aspects to be considered here. The first is that of training and in-service training for the professionals in the leisure service. I established a committee under the chairmanship of Mrs. Anne Yates. I understand that it is due to report soon. Perhaps the Minister can give us some news of it. It has been looking at the training and skills required by people working in the leisure service.

I readily confess to having failed to persuade the Department of Education and Science, which is responsible for the arts, to come into this training programme. I believe that the Department was very foolish not to do so. I wish that I had fought a lot harder than I did on that issue. If we are to have a leisure service that is all-embracing, on one site, the man who starts by having responsibility for the kick-about area will one day move up the promotion ladder and eventually have responsibility for a library and perhaps the management of the concert hall, the athletics stadium and the swimming bath. It is an all-embracing process. If the arts world cuts itself off, it does a tremendous disservice to the whole of this concept.

In a sense, I suppose that I am trailing the report that is to come from the committee under the chairmanship of Mrs. Anne Yates. I met the members of the committee once or twice when they were taking evidence. I hope that they will deal with the whole of this question. But there is one specialist point that needs to be examined by them. I have in mind a point made by the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) a moment ago. I refer to what has come to be called therapeutic recreation. In this age of jargon, I heard the term only recently for the first time. What is the role of a leisure service? What part should leisure play in the lives of the socially deprived, of aged people, and of people who are retiring much earlier than used to be the case? The whole of that area is of enormous importance.

People think that this kind of service will cost money. My argument it that if we keep people mobile, active and interested, we can save a great deal of money. It is a good investment for society as a whole and it is one that we ought to make.

But education for leisure is of itself of tremendous importance. The term used now is "free time". That is another piece of jargon. Leisure and unemployment have come to be called "free time" and people are discussing what should be done with it. For what sort of life are we educating people?

We have started to think again recently about the school curriculum. I am glad to note that physical education is one of the constituents of what has come to be called the core curriculum. I am glad to see that the Minister is nodding assent. But we must go much further. I want the leisure service to expand.

The Physical Education Association has told me that it is sponsoring research on the sort of life that youngsters should be educated to live in 20 years' time. There will be profound changes. Academic excellence in schools will still be important, but more attention must be devoted to the quality of life, how people relate to their neighbours, responsible social behaviour and the use of leisure time. Those are the questions which will be relevant to an increasing number of our people, especially in urban areas.

We have to start in the primary schools. It is no use thinking that we can leave such matters until children reach the fourth and fifth forms of secondary schools. Good habits start young and orientation to living a life of increased leisure must start among young children.

Education is about how to choose between one opportunity and another. When we start to discuss personal dignity and a sense of personal and community identity, we shall be getting near to understanding what should be the role of our schools in the next two or three generations. Lord Hunt made some interesting comments on those topics at a recent conference at St. George's House.

The other side of the coin is frustration, boredom, vandalism, hooliganism and the problems associated with football matches. I am pleased to note that football hooliganism has decreased this year, although some individual incidents are much more serious. The reason for the improvement is that we have taken tough action and sensible policies have been implemented in football grounds. There is a growing realisation that vandalism and hooliganism are the fruits of boredom. That is an educational challenge which we must take up.

I turn to the effect on sport and the arts of the financial climate in which we are living. Ministers must ensure that there is no cut, in real terms, in the provision for sport and recreation. I congratulate the Minister responsible for sport on standing up valiantly in difficult times for the interests that he represents. I know the pressures that he has been under and he has done well, certainly better than the Minister responsible for the arts, who, as soon as the subject of the debate was announced this morning, promptly left the Chamber. That was sad.

The Minister responsible for the arts imposed a cut on the arts budget. He claims blithely that it was a 2 per cent. cut and that it had been absorbed by the Arts Council. That is not true. The Arts Council has honoured existing commitments against future possibilities. It has drawn on next year's finance, even though that will mean a real cut next year, in order to honour its commitments to theatres and orchestras this year.

We remember that the Minister said before the election that there would be "no candle-end economies" in the arts. The point was taken up by the Prime Minister, but we are having precisely such economies now.

It is claimed that the arts world must accept its share of cuts, but how can one cut the performance of our great orchestras? It is impossible to reduce the numbers. I took my wife last night to the first concert of the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra under its new conductor. Mr. Simon Rattle. It was an exhilarating occasion, but I came away depressed because the future of that great orchestra is in question.

Local authorities are making clear that they can do no more to help. The future of the orchestra will depend on whether the Minister can sustain the Arts Council budget so that the council can keep the orchestra going.

Mr. Rees-Davies

The right hon. Gentleman must realise that, if Birmingham wishes to retain its orchestra, the citizens and industries of the city could act on the do-it-yourself principle of providing for what they need. It is not necessary always to have subsidies from the Government.

Mr. Howell

I served on the committee of the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra for many years, so I know the problems involved. Industry and local authorities do well by the orchestra, but their money, with the income from recordings and concerts, is insufficient to sustain a great orchestra of 100 members.

Only countries with much greater private sponsorship than we have ever achieved could meet such a cost. The London orchestras, the Hallé, the Liverpool, Bourn mouth and Birmingham orchestras, the National Theatre, art galleries and the rest of our great institutions will not remain in existence if the Arts Council budget is seriously cut.

It is no use talking about the leisure service that we want in 20 years' time if we do not provide for the continuation of our excellence in the arts and sport during the present crisis. They will have collapsed and will be irreplaceable.

Local authorities are trying to do their share and I do not criticise them too much. They spent £330 million last year on sport, mostly on grass roots provision. I hope that the Minister will find some way of keeping in operation the programme that the previous Government started, particularly for inner city sport and recreation. It was only temporary aid, but the Football Ground Improvement Trust is backing it up splendidly with money from the pools promoters, to whom the Minister responsible for sport and I have often paid tribute.

Youngsters will respond to the magic of football clubs and footballers, and it is important to get young people involved not just on Saturday afternoons but at other times and to encourage them to behave constructively.

I found £2 million for football club community schemes and £1 million for the urban stress grant. I have seen in my own constituency how valuable that grant can be. We have West Indian and Pakistani cricket teams, both of which have been given equipment that they could not have afforded in downtown Birmingham. Hockey teams have been set up among the Asian community and the fact that the money was available for equipment has been a termendous fillip in my constituency. I know that the Minister will try to keep the scheme in operation.

I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich said about VAT. The tax is probably the biggest problem pressing on the provision for community sport. The previous Government did not exempt sport from VAT, so I am not excessively criticising the present Government, but it is time to have an all-party or independent investigation of the problem.

The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) has strong views, with which I agree, on the imposition of VAT on the horse-racing industry. In comparison with what our competitors in Europe are doing, the effect of VAT on sport in this country is devastating. They have a nil VAT rate in Europe for most horse-racing and for sport and the arts. If the Government cannot give grants, they should ensure that sport, the arts and recreation are not given worse treatment than that found in other European countries. Indeed, the Government have an obligation to give grants under the terms of the Treaty. The issue needs urgent examination. Grants are the only means of helping those areas that now experience such difficulties.

There is a need for realism in the future. The Countryside Commission, the Arts Council, the Sports Council, the Forestry Commission and other voluntary bodies involved with recreation and sport have told me that priority should be given to community provisions. There should be provision for community arts and community sport. The countryside should help the townspeople to get out of those areas of social stress and strain. I have found that approach very helpful.

In inner city areas, we should open our schools to the public. We have created many new sports centres, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend said. However, we must take care lest those areas become bastions of middle-class activity. I do not decry middle-class activity, because it is often the springboard for many social changes. We are pricing out of those sports centres those whom we should be attracting. If unemployed and disadvantaged youth is priced out of youth centres, it will cause trouble outside. Once again, that will involve more cost. Where is the economic sense in that? I beg local authorities and those who own sports centres to go out and drag people into them. That is the way to get a good community service. Do not price people out of them as, in the end, that will cost a lot of money.

I therefore welcome the remarks of the hon. Member for Reading, North about lotteries. I shall repeat a point that I made during a recent debate on the Royal Commission. Many hon. Members were anxious not to accept the Royal Commission's recommendations concerning national lotteries, because they thought that they would put church lotteries, cricket and football club lotteries and charitable lotteries out of business. That was a grave mistake. We need two national lotteries a year that are well run and bigger than any other lottery.

I went to Canada to investigate lotteries, and I discovered that a national lottery has no effect on those run by community organisations. National lotteries are seen as something special. We should have one lottery for the arts and one for sport. That would greatly help community provisions. If the Arts Council wishes to maintain the great theatres and orchestras, it will have to sacrifice community arts projects. That would be a disaster. In my constituency the Second City theatre struggles along without any money. That theatre has no idea where money will come from. It cannot get money from local firms because of the economic climate. Nor can it get money from the local authorities. However, that theatre carries out a lot of good work. It visits old people's homes and puts on shows for the elderly as well as schools and neigbourhood communities.

In a world of leisure, we must have a new look at access to the countryside. People have a right to enjoy the countryside and we should therefore open up many areas of Britain. From the information that I have been given, there are hundreds of acres of woodland near Luton Hoo that give no access to the public. That is an area of unparalleled beauty. We must see what can be done, and if we meet with obstruction we must legislate. I would unhesitatingly give the Countryside Commission far greater powers to instigate activity and greater involvement. The Countryside Commission and the national parks—under certain influences—spend far too much time preventing people from enjoying those areas.

We must redress that balance. We have a duty to protect the national heritage and to provide isolated areas so that people can enjoy solitude and beauty. However, there is an equal duty to attract people into the countryside. They have a right to enjoy it.

Mr. Matthew Parris (Derbyshire, West)

The right hon. Gentleman is right. We must encourage people into the countryside. However, I represent an area that encompasses a large part of the Peak District national park. It is important to consider the interests of those who live and work in those parks and those who own the land. That is why the right hon. Gentleman has met resistance, and some of that resistance is justified.

Mr. Howell

I do not entirely disagree. We must respect the solitude of the countryside and those who work and live there. It is a question of balance. We need a "honeypot policy". As we have leisure, motorways and motor cars, people are attracted into areas such as the Peak District, Dartmoor, Exmoor and Snowdon. We did not envisage that so many people would visit those areas when the national parks were created. As a result, those areas that we seek to protect are in danger of being trampled underfoot by the weight of numbers.

I heard the phrase "honeypot policy" and I approve of it. It means that we should open up the fringes of national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and country parks, particularly where they border urban areas. The hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) was correct in his reference to the green belt in his area and the role that it plays for those living in Birmingham and Coventry. However, no money is available for that alternative policy. The Government will not give any financial inducement to the honeypot policy. That green belt enables local people to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside.

If one goes out on a Sunday, on a summer's day—if we get one—and if one looks at what is going on, one finds hundreds and thousands of motorists who are driving round, looking for somewhere to go. That is one reason why I am in favour of Sunday racing. If Cheltenham racecourse were open on a Sunday, it might be possible to enjoy the Cotswolds. I like going to the Cotswolds, and I would occasionally enjoy the Cheltenham races as well. I am glad that I am amusing people, but as we have more leisure we must decide how to provide for that leisure if we are to protect our heritage.

I very much agree with the speech of the hon. Member for Reading, North and I hope that the Minister will take up his point about moorings.

One of the initiatives that I started as a Minister was the concept of a national long-distance canal walkway. We have 2,000 miles of canals. They all go through beautiful countryside and into and out of our cities. They go into our cities because they were part of our Industrial Revolution. They all have towpaths. They can be used not merely for boating and fishing but for the joy of looking at water, which is a great pleasure and solace to so many people. I would put a few pubs and cafs on them to attract people to use them. Some marvellous work has been done in part of the Manchester area, where a pub has been provided and people go out to the area on Sundays.

It has been said that angling is the biggest sport. If we call angling a sport and walking a recreation, that is right. However, in the household survey that the Government conducted in, I think, 1977, the interesting fact that came to light was that beyond football, angling or anything else, the biggest single participant interest is walking.

People walk. Twice a week one-fifth of the adult population go specifically for a walk of at least two miles. That makes it important to have the long-distance canal walkways, which I started off. On 26 March last year I wrote to Sir Frank Price, the chairman of the British Waterways Board, asking him to look at the possibility of a long-distance walkway along the whole length of our canal system. I hope that that is taking place. I understand that the Countryside Commission is still enthusiastic. It tells me that the British Waterways Board is enthusiastic, too. I hope that the Minister can give us some encouragement, because access to the countryside and the use of our canal system is all part and parcel of the leisure service that we need.

Mr. Durant

I apologise for not being present when the right hon. Gentleman referred to me just now. I had to make a telephone call. On the question of walkways, there are certain legal problems regarding rights on banks. Is not this one of the major problems that the British Waterways Board has found? Certain canal paths are not under the board's control, and this causes some difficulties in creating the very thing about which the right hon. Gentleman is talking.

Mr. Howell

I think that that is right. But if we go for a long-distance walkway, I hope that we can settle that difficulty. It cannot be provided next week, but I think that we could announce next week that we agree with the philosophy behind it and get on with it.

In the interests of other Members, I move rapidly to the conclusion of my speech, mentioning the areas of special needs which we ought to examine. I issued a White Paper on this subject some time ago. In recreational terms, we need especially to bring absolutely new thinking to sport and recreation for the early retired—which I have mentioned, so I shall not dwell upon the matter—and the handicapped, who were mentioned by the hon. Member for Ealing, North.

It is a tremendous fillip for handicapped people just to get on a horse and walk it around. It is a fantastic thing. The work being done at Stoke Mandeville by Sir Ludwig Guttmann and the work being done by other organisations for the handicapped is tremendous. It is probably the most positive way in which the community can help handicapped people to have some sense of personal achievement in their lives, which is absolutely vital.

If the hon. Member for Ealing, North is going to oppose the Dartmoor Bill because it keeps the horses off the moor, he will certainly have me at his side supporting him.

Mr. Greenway

I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for saying that. It is tremendous. I, too, am sorry that I shall have to leave shortly to make a telephone call.

Perhaps I may extend the point slightly. I am sure that the right hon. Member is with me all the way. We have talked about disabled children riding horses and ponies, and that is marvellous. I had the most marvellous experience, on Boxing Day, of seeing, on horseback, people from the Royal Star and Garter Home, some in their seventies and eighties and normally confined to wheelchairs. The feeling of exhilaration, new life and new living that they have from seeing the world from there instead of from a wheelchair is deeply exciting.

Mr. Howell

I merely say "Amen" to that. Nothing more can be added. I absolutely agree.

The other special needs are those of women. The extraordinary thing is that all our sports organisations have been forced, reluctantly, rather late in the day, to look at what should be done about providing sporting and recreational opportunities for women. The most difficult job in our society is that of the working housewife. She is expected to go to work to earn a living, the second income that most families now need, and to come home and do the cooking, the cleaning and the laundry. No one asks whether she is entitled to some leisure and to get a look-in and when we shall provide for her recreational needs. It is extraordinary, in this male chauvinistic society in which we live, that we have never properly tackled this matter.

I hope very much that our regional councils, sports bodies, education authorities and local authorities will go out of their way and, in sport and recreational terms, regard women, who form more than half of the population, as underprivileged. We had better do something about the matter rapidly. It will mean producing creches, so that people can attend movement and dance sessions and keep fit classes, play squash and so on. Those activities that women need for their recreation or elevation are of tremendous importance. We must cater for them.

Finally, I turn to the last part of the motion. Just what do we do about our institutions of excellence, whether in sport or recreation or in the arts? The fact is that the great areas of excellence, which are a real credit, are the places where we set standards. That is why I think that the Olympics have to go on. But I do not open that debate today—although I am surprised that no hon. Member has yet mentioned the subject. One of the things about the Olympic Games which is of tremendous importance, and which is why they must be treasured, is that it is there that standards of excellence are established at a world level.

I take this opportunity—I am sure that the Minister will join me—in offering the congratulations of the House to Mr. Robin Cousins on winning his gold medal in the European skating championships. That is excellent. John Curry did so be- fore him. They established a pattern of excellence, which has determined standards all the way down. The tragedy is that the inspirational effect of excellence is something that our society has not yet appreciated. When Robin Cousins won his gold medal, there was an upsurge of interest on the part of youngsters, who said "He has done it. I should like to have a go and do it." That is what life in a free society is about.

But what is happening? Mecca is closing down all its ice rinks. Local authorities are not building any rinks. There will be no places for the John Currys and others to help. That is why we want the Manchester national ice skating centre. From the Dispatch Box last Friday, another Minister in the Department of the Environment attacked Manchester for what he called its waste of money in proposing to provide a national exhibition centre. How ludicrous can one Department get?

I hope that the Minister present today has given his colleague a kick up the pants, because Manchester is providing this national exhibition centre at the Government's request, with help from the Sports Council. We do not have a national ice skating centre. That is why Mr. Cousins and Mr. Curry before him have had to go to the United States for training—partly because the best trainers are there but also because there are no facilities in Britain. We expect people to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning to do their ice-skating training if they are to represent the country.

Mr. Jim Callaghan

I should like to pursue the question of the Manchester ice skating centre. In the light of what the Minister said last week, which was disgraceful, it looks—just as I raised the issue of the Palace theatre earlier in the debate, which looks as though it will come to an end prematurely—as though we shall lose the Manchester ice palace. I should like the Minister to make a categorical statement to contradict that made by the other Minister last week.

Mr. Howell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I will not use any further illustrations. I could talk about the importance of Wembley—our only national sporting centre—of Covent Garden, of the National Theatre, of our great orchestras and of our national parks. These are the great centres of excellence in sporting, recreational and leisure terms. They must be protected and promoted. Even in difficult times, they must be kept going. It would be a national disgrace if they did not thrive to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

This debate has shown that on both sides of the House sensible hon. Members realise the importance of leisure, its growing importance and the need to develop a philosophy and a policy. We need to ensure that the voluntary bodies come together. Local government has given a lead. National Government must follow. Our structure of government must be adequate to meet the demands that increasing leisure will make upon it. If we fail in that task, we shall be failing millions of people in the future. We shall reap a whirlwind of devastation due to boredom, vandalism and hooliganism in society.

Our job at the end of the day is to elevate mankind to understand the importance and the possibilities of living a full life and developing his personality. It is almost a spiritual task that faces the country. I do not apologise for putting the issue in those terms. I hope that the Government and the House will not fail to rise to the needs of the future.

1.11 pm
Mr. John Heddle (Lichfield and Tamworth)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the privilege of catching your eye before you blow the final whistle on the debate. I shall resist the temptation to punt for better rugby facilities in Lichfield, ride my own hobby horse for better bridleways in Tamworth or peddle my case for better cycle tracks elsewhere in my constituency.

There is much in the motion of the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) that unites the two sides of the House. We all want better leisure facilities. Two issues divide us. The first is whether the role of central Government is necessary in providing leisure services. Neither I nor certain of my hon. Friends believe that it is necessary. If it were necessary, I should like to know from where the money would be obtained.

The second issue that divides the House, if I may quote the words of the motion, is the argument that we should develop policies for earlier retirement, shorter working weeks and longer holidays". I wonder, in our present economic climate, whether we can look forward to shorter working weeks, longer holidays and earlier retirement. Before dealing with that issue, I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Minister to pick up the point with which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) did not deal in the detail that I should have liked, after I raised the matter in an intervention.

The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich raised the issue of the regrettable but necessary increase in VAT on theatre tickets and admission to other leisure, sport and cultural activities. In my own Midlands constituency, I believe, although I bow to the superior knowledge of the Minister, that the increase in the level of VAT has not affected attendances at our theatres, concerts, sporting and other cultural and leisure activities. I am sure that attendances at football matches tomorrow will be as great as, if not greater than, on the comparable Saturday last year.

Mr. Jim Callaghan

I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that the mass lobby by members of Equity at the House before Christmas would not agree with what he says. Its members do not share the attitude of the hon. Gentleman towards the theatre.

Mr. Denis Howell

Football attendances are down.

Mr. Callaghan

I agree with my right hon. Friend that football attendances are down. We must not fall behind the generous grants given throughut the rest of Europe towards the theatre. They will flourish and our theatre will fall behind.

Mr. Heddle

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's view on the fall in football attendances. I agree that we must not fall behind our competitors in Europe. But the fact is that we are way down the European league table in every sense. Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and Spain are above us in almost every area. Until we get to the top of the first division of Europe, we shall be unable to subsidise the arts, sport and other recreational spheres in the way that the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich seeks.

A matter of total agreement is the growing need for further sports facilities, sports centres and multi-purpose sports complexes in inner cities, new towns and overspill towns. The planning authorities have an important role to play. They must ensure that in any comprehensive redevelopment of inner cities and in the development of overspill towns and new towns specific areas are allocated for all types of leisure. These must cater for family and community leisure.

Unless those facilities are provided, the youth of the day will expend its energies, vigour and enthusiasms in other directions. Boredom will develop into hooliganism. Vandals will graduate ultimately to petty crime. That must be avoided at all costs.

I should like to revert to the question of early retirement, the shorter working week and longer holidays. All of us, perhaps, would like a shorter working week, longer holidays and early retirement. But that seems no recipe for the economic success for which this country has been striving but has not yet achieved. Early retirement, a shorter working week and longer holidays do not seem to be a panacea for our economic ills. There is obviously a difference between us on that aspect of the motion.

But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) so eloquently said, this country has the ability to adapt to progress and technological advance. We should not be afraid of the silicon chip and other scientific and technical advances in industry and commerce. Throughout history we have proved ourselves inventive, with the ability to rise to the challenge of progress and change.

Farriers did not go out of business when the first tractor was invented. Cycle makers, such as the Rootes brothers, who started in a shed at the bottom of a back garden in Cranbrook, did not file their petition in bankruptcy and throw up their hands when the internal combusion engine was invented. They progressed to develop a motor car and a motor manufacturing group that, as the right hon. Member for Small Heath will know, employed many people in and around his constituency. They rose to the challenge of technological change. They did not fight shy from it. Nor have Japan, France, Ger- many or the United States or any of our industrial competitors in the free world.

The crystal set manufacturers did not pack up and go home when the cathode ray tube was invented. They altered course. They changed. They rose to the challenge of progress. So, I believe, will we in our society as we learn to live with the silicon chip and more sophisticated forms of technological advance. In a charming, witty and persuasive speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) pointed out that one still cannot get a plug changed on a dishwasher. One still cannot get a washer changed on a tap and a service on an ordinary motor car at the drop of a hat. One cannot get a painter and decorator to prime a window frame. For all the technological skills and sophistication entering into our daily lives, the ordinary jobs still need to be done.

I remain optimistic. Unlike the right hon. Member for Small Heath, I do not think that the word processor will mean saying "au revoir" to the shorthand-typist or "goodbye" to our secretaries. We need them, because we need people to perform jobs. People are part of the work process and no machine, however sophisticated, will ever take the place of people. Heaven help us if that is ever the case.

Mr. John Carlisle

In an investigation made into colleges of further education in my town, it was found that courses for shorthand-typists were oversubscribed. Does my hon. Friend agree that that runs counter to the statement made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell).

Mr. Heddle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Carlisle) for his intervention.

I now touch on the three matters that will affect the provision of better leisure, recreational and sporting activities. Of course there are the existing grant aids available through central Government. But the Sports Council, the Countryside Commission, the Arts Council, the British Tourist Authority, local authorities through their education authorities, the British Waterways Board through its amenities department, and the regional water authorities all have a role to play in providing funds which cannot be printed in the presses of the Bank of England but must be obtained from the pockets of the taxpayers and ratepayers of this country. Until we increase our productivity as a nation and until we become more prosperous, we cannot contribute more to the needy areas that so desperately require the facilities mentioned by the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich.

I give one example of a partnership scheme that is working very successfully. Such schemes can work, as is evidenced in Poole in Dorset, where there is a civic centre. Included in the civic centre developed by Arndale Properties is a sports centre which was part of the planning deal between the sports promoters and local authority in conjunction with the developer. That sports centre does not cost the ratepayers one penny. It is run by a trust and is self-supporting. Of course, the trust has on its board representatives of the local authority and the ratepayers.

Mr. Denis Howell

I am glad to tell the hon. Member that I visited that centre two or three months ago. Having opened it and having been made an honorary member, I am glad that the hon. Member represents my interests in this House in that respect.

Mr. Heddle

The right hon. Member did not slip me a note about that before I came to the House. I am delighted to have my comments about the centre endorsed from the Labour Benches, which shows that there is unanimity on this point and that such partnership schemes can and do exist without being a drain on the resources of the ratepayers. I am glad that the Poole civic centre showed such wisdom in making the right hon. Member for Small Heath an honorary member.

Additional funds to provide sports facilities in inner city areas can come from pension funds and City institutions. Pension funds naturally will invest policyholders' savings in investments that can fulfil three criteria—growth, security and liquidity. In this case those three criteria are met, particularly that of security, as there is no better covenant than that of the local authority as a tenant.

I shall quote two examples. The first is Brighton marina, which has been created in partnership with the Brighton corporation and subsequently with funds from the National Westminster Bank pension fund and the electricity supply nominees' pension fund. The second is Basildon new town, which is only 20 miles from this Chamber, where £2 million was spent on a multi-use family recreation centre consisting of a zoo, a hotel, a lake, riding facilities, a squash court, a swimming pool and a country club—anything and everything that a family may need at the weekend. That £2 million was provided by the ICI pension fund, the National Westminster Bank pension fund and the electricity supply nominees' pension fund. Once again it provides an example of institutions contributing to the community and benefiting local people without a penny being provided by taxpayers or ratepayers.

In Ashford, the Stour centre was created five years ago by the local authority. However, it cost the ratepayers an average of £100,000 a year. It has just been bought by private entrepreneurs who think that they can run it for profit. This is the area towards which we should direct our thoughts—that of providing better recreational facilities in inner cities, new towns and overspill towns.

The real question is, who will provide the money to give the public better facilities, whether it is a shorter working week, longer holidays or early retirement? The facilities that we have learnt to enjoy we have almost come to expect. If the answer lies with the Government to provide the money, the community will not receive the facilities. Unless we have a more prosperous society, as a result of greater encouragement and tax incentives, the money must come from outside central Government.

1.26 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, West)

I have great interest in this subject. I shall keep my remarks shorter than I intended because I am anxious to hear the Minister's reply.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) on the quiet and efficient way in which he presented his motion. We all respect the way in which he presented his case. He had an admirable ally in his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who has great knowledge of all kinds, particularly on this subject.

This motion is similar to the curate's egg—good in parts. I mean no disrespect to the hon. Member if I tell him about most of the parts that I did not like in his motion. Many people who hear our debate today might wonder why, at a time when the country is on its knees, inflation is raging at 17 per cent., unemployment is around 1½ million through no fault of this Government and Russian troops are marching into Afghanistan, the House should take time on a Friday to debate such a subject as this. Nevertheless, it has been a very good and informative debate which should be of some use to people outside.

I immediately take issue with the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich about the actual contents of the motion, and I take up the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle) about the emphasis that has been placed on fewer working hours, early retirement and longer holidays. I take further issue because the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich incorporated into the motion the claim about the trade unions' attitude to the problem. Some of us would, perhaps, have accepted his motion with a little more grace had he included some indication of how we might increase productivity by the use of new technology.

The incentive to work should go along with increased leisure time, which should enable us to create more jobs and increase efficiency, though all work and no play would make this House a dull place. For that reason, it is good to be here on a Friday debating something less serious than usual. But we must set an example to the nation and I hope that when noting this debate people will realise that this is an important subject.

The issue of silicon chips in industry has been exaggerated. In the last Parliament I recall fears being expressed by the present Leader of the Opposition that we might not use our new-found leisure to advantage. On that issue my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page), in a comic speech, presented a realistic argument. We should recognise that the advent of the silicon chip is a great challenge.

I am interested in sport and I bring to this House a message from sportsmen. The message, particularly to the Minister, is that the Government should keep their hands off sport. Interference by poli- ticians in this House and in local government—and, according to the motion, possibly by trade unionists—has saddened many sportsmen. It has been a week of unwelcome publicity in sport.

I have bombarded the Minister with early-day motions about the Lions' tour and, while respecting his views, I am glad that 30 fit young men will be able to pursue their sport in a country whose policies we shall aid by going there. Those young men will have the chance to practise the sport in which they have become expert and will give pleasure to thousands of people regardless of the political implications of the tour.

The same might be said of the 12,000 athletes who hope to participate in the Olympic Games. I would be among the first to admit that the venue of the Games causes a problem, and I support the Prime Ministerin her plea that the Games should be moved to another site. Nevertheless, sportsmen feel that their particular sport is being hampered and interfered with by politicians. The message coming loud and clear from them is that we should keep our hands off sport.

One wonders where such interference might end. We have had an intended Bill on hare coursing. Many Labour Members, and some Tory Members, are against fox hunting. Some are against fishing, shooting and riding. I support the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) on pony riding. I declare an interest because my wife runs a small riding school.

According to the motion, not only shall we have more Government interference trade unions will also put their spoke in. I dread to think what will happen when trade union influence is brought to bear upon cricket, where when one player is out, all are out. How would trade unionists play rugby, where we have forwards and backs? Would the allocation of jobs in the game upset the trade union movement?

The development of a leisure service seems to be dependent on Government inspiration and Government money, and I take issue with the Sports Council and its activities. This year it will spend £15 million of taxpayers' money, but its existence is now being called into question. I have asked the Prime Minister why we need a Minister for sport. I am the first to pay my respects to the present Minister for sport, but some of us are worried that Government interference in sport is accentuated by the fact that we have a Minister with responsibilities for sport.

Much of the debate has centred round the way in which money is raised. Sportsmen are sickened by the thought that they will be entirely dependent on Government and local authority grants when they can easily finance themselves. Most sportsmen do not need to be told by hon. Members, or by the Government or local authorities, how to raise their own money. Many sports facilities are run by amateurs who give up their precious time at great personal cost. In the villages, the grounds-men and tea ladies work for no great return. They will resent further interference by the Government, and certainly by trade union officials.

One of the great sources of cash is the sponsors. I am pleased that the right hon. Member for Small Heath has a personal interest in the matter. Large sums have been injected into sport by sponsors. Incidentally, if any hon. Member has a spare ticket for the England and Wales match at Twickenham, I should be grateful for it. When I sit at Twickenham and see the names on advertising hoardings I do not object, because those companies inject badly needed money into the sport. I support the idea of lotteries. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth that pension funds should be invested in sport. Such money goes not only to the top echelons. It filters through. Many cheap loans are made to rugby union clubs throughout the land to help them to develop facilities. The impression often is that all the money goes to the top sportmen, but that is not so. We are looking for a balance, and that balance must be in favour of those who inject the cash.

Sportsmen face the problems of inflation and the higher rate of VAT. They are worried about the Government's attitude. During the debate hon. Members have put in plugs for various organisations, and I should like to do the same. When the new agreement on tobacco advertising is signed in March, I plead with the Department of Health and Social Security not to alter the agreement or make the controls more stringent. Much money is injected into sport by manufac- turers of alcohol and tobacco, which are considered to be dangers to health.

Football has benefited directly from football pools. The previous Minister responsible for sport should be congratulated, because many football grounds would have had to close if money had not been given to them to obey the health and safety regulations. Whatever one may think about Mr. Packer in Australia—and I do not like some of his tactics—he has done much to improve the welfare of cricketers.

There is no real need for the leisure service which the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich suggested. A whole new line of bureaucracy is completely unnecessary. There are enough quangos connected with sport. The money must come from somewhere. That is the basis of the motion, but it does not say where it is to come from.

The trade unions are always calling for shorter working weeks, earlier retirement and higher wages. Is that a responsible attitude at a time of financial stringency? How many sacred cows are Labour Members willing to sacrifice and slaughter for the sake of putting more money into a new leisure service bureaucracy? How many hospitals and old people's homes are they willing to close to finance lavish new sports centres, many of which are greatly under-used? Although the motion deserves a certain amount of credit, I cannot support it.

1.40 pm
Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

We are all indebted to the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) for introducing the debate and for the fact that, with one rather rude alternative, it has been an interesting and altogether good atmosphere.

It is manifestly right to call attention to the need for the development of a leisure service. To affirm our determination to sustain the excellence of the arts, music, the theatre and sport is equally right. The technique and the method sought by the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich—a new Government Department and more Ministers—is manifestly wrong.

The patronage of the future will come, broadly speaking, not only from the pension funds—those funds belong to the workers and the members of the trade union movement among others—but also from the trade unions themselves. I believe that the unions are coming to recognise that and to appreciate that, like employers who have their own football grounds, there is no reason why they should not have their grounds in their clubs.

I am against Government expenditure generally, and I am not sure that the structure of the Government is right. There is a strong case for the Secretary of State for Trade—he is, in effect, the Minister for tourism—being the umbrella under which the Minister of sport should come. I am all for keeping a Minister for sport, but if I were the Prime Minister I am not sure that I would have put him in the Department of the Environment. It is a difficult issue, but I am inclined to think that they should all come together under one umbrella—probably trade. Every time this issue is examined by the Government, different answers are produced. The situation is made more difficult because the British Museum is determined to remain with the Treasury on its own and dealing with its own interests and the library. Equally, the Victoria and Albert Museum and others remain with the Department of Education and Science. When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary goes traipsing around the Ministries, does he find a co-ordinating committee concerned not only with his duties in sport but with the arts, the theatre, sport, the film world, music and, more particularly, tourism?

I am the chairman of a fairly new party committee on tourism. We have recently been considering the position of the theatre. I wish to make a suggestion involving a "do it yourself" approach. It involves encouraging voluntary services and voluntary workers, who in turn work very closely with the local authorities through real local democracy, creating a sense of community at local level.

I have recently made a proposition that has caught the public eye, and it concerns the theatre. The living theatre is in great difficulty because the number of theatregoersis decreasing. Fewer foreigners go to the theatre here and those who go do not possess the same wealth as was once the case. The theatre is not getting that wealth, and, more particularly, the provincial theatre is not getting the encouragement it needs.

My proposal has been taken up with the Theatrical Management Association, the Society of West End Theatre and Equity. I am sure that they will all support it if it is practical. It is that there should be a theatregoers society at national, regional and London level. One would join for a low subscription and receive blocks of tickets at a substantial discount. If granny lived in London, she would become a member there but would also have the opportunity of tickets available in Birmingham and Manchester. The Theatrical Management Association would have to form a small company in London, I hope with the active support of Equity.

In that way we would re-create a regular theatre-going public who would do a great deal to help the provincial and London theatre in these difficult times. We cannot make out a special case here for the reduction or abolition of VAT. The first is against Government policy and the second is impossible.

Many theatres can be treated as historic buildings. I hope that a case will be made to the Treasury for assistance in the Budget towards the preservation of the fabric and repairs to our first-class theatres, so that they are not lost. It would be a sad day if they were lost, because they could not be regained.

I turn to a totally different subject—that of bathing. This is a matter for the Department of the Environment. I am about to take up the attack in my constituency. I have always been guided by the principle that Members of Parliament should leave local authorities to get on with their own business, but under the hat of tourism and others I have come to believe that it is our responsibility to see that our beaches are of the same standard as those in other parts of the world.

I am concerned not about sewage disposal but about the apparent dirtiness of many beaches. Even when they are not dirty, such things as seaweed are unattractive and people think that they are dirty. There should be a drive to provide the amenities that one finds abroad—sun-beds, umbrellas, little tables and the opportunity to drink in comfort. That means setting apart areas of the beach for which people pay.

Such a development is overdue. Resorts should designate beaches intended for bathing, those which have special facilities and those which do not. Then, other beaches would have to be designated for aquatic sports.

In Beresford Gap in my constituency is a beach from which people would not want to bathe but which is first-class for water-skiing and hang-gliding. Minnis Bay is first-class for small yachts but also good for bathing. I would like to see proper huts on these beaches and proper charges made.

This suggestion should pay for itself. I am not asking for local authority money. The public should pay for the amenities they deserve to enjoy themselves. As a member until recently of Kent county council, I think that this could be dealt with at county level and that others, including the Minister, could play a great part.

The seaside resorts would follow a lead from the Minister. This would be of advantage to swimming clubs, which are growing and which should grow apace.

I wish to make a special case to abolish VAT in the horseracing industry on the grounds of comparability. If the French and the Irish do not charge VAT, there is no reason why it should be charged in Britain. Britain is obliged to charge VAT under EEC regulations. They should be altered so that it is charged only on the carcase of the horse. We would be content with that. I have written to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Treasury—the hon. Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees)—reminding him that he is overdue in giving me the answer that he promised on the matter. From my fairly extensive knowledge of the horseracing industry, I can tell the House that it is an issue absolutely crucial to the maintenance and training of our bloodstock.

I hope that we will introduce Sunday racing, although I do not claim that the racing industry necessarily wishes for that. I agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) that the public ought to be able to attend race meetings on a Sunday. It is appropriate to the time in which we live. I hope that the racecourse associations will maintain and improve their facilities. I hope that they will encourage the attendance of youngsters by lowering some of their charges. In that way, families would attend the races.

There are two ways in which we could help the Minister through the tourism industry. First, we should ensure that we receive EEC money for the building of sports complexes and convention centres. That could be achieved. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will succeed in achieving a substantial reduction in our commitment to Europe—probably to £500 million but no further. On the principle of swings and roundabouts, she could rightly say—and win the case—that we must gain in industrial grants what we lose on the common agricultural policy.

To obtain that money, tourism should be regarded as an industry. I wish to see tourist industrial designated development areas, of which Thanet could be one. At the moment there is the ludicrous position of Scarborough receiving considerable sums of money because it falls within an industrial development area. Other resorts, such as Thanet, Bourn mouth and Brighton, receive no help.

Substantial EEC grants would give a great advantage to the whole of the tourist industry and, through that, the greatest possible benefit to the sport and recreational facilities of Britain. That is the way to proceed.

We must achieve registration of all our accommodation, on a voluntary basis, in order to know its extent. After all, the British are the principal tourists in this country, not the foreigners. We wish to know where we can find reasonable accommodation in the countryside.

I should like to see a policy established where the Minister with responsibility for sport operates through the Departments with one co-ordinating committee.

1.54 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Hector Monro)

This has been a splendid debate. Indeed, it has given me an excellent appetite for a Burns night supper, if I get to Scotland in time tonight.

I echo what was said by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) about the great prelude to the debate by Robin Cousins's victory last night in the European skating championships. The first thing that I did this morning was to ensure that he got a telegram from us all.

We have not had many debates on sport and recreation in the past 10 or 12 years, but certainly this has been outstandingly the best. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have put forward ideas and made comments which we shall be considering in future.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) on initiating the debate and on what he said. In case we run short of time, I should like to answer two particular points relative to Manchester.

The first concerns the Palace theatre. In 1978–79 the Arts Council provided £395,000. It is for the Arts Council to consider whether more funding is required. I am sure that the parties concerned are in touch with each other.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman in an intervention asked about Manchester ice rink. Funding is currently being discussed with the Department of the Environment, as is consideration about the grant from the Sports Council. The latter body is entirely autonomous in regard to how much it gives in grant to any applicant.

The motion is detailed and extensive. However I may go slightly beyond its terms when highlighting the importance of the quality of life and the opportunities for recreation and leisure and what the Government propose to do.

Comments have been made on the omission, if such it can be classed, from the motion of how we are to pay for a leisure service and whether the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich has taken sufficient account of the financial implications.

We must earn our resources and create the circumstances into which leisure facilities can fit. I hope that no one today had the intention of asking the Government to increase substantially their input to sport, recreation and the arts at a time of economic stringency. That would be illogical and a task to which I should not give a warm response.

The motion lays great emphasis on the implications of the microelectronic technology of the future. My hon. Friends the Members for Reading, North (Mr. Durant) and Luton, West (Mr. Carlisle) felt that there was over-reaction in that respect. I believe that is so. Therefore, I should like to comment right away on developments in the pipeline. The principal ministerial responsibility for this matter rests with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Employment and for Industry.

The Government are continuing the microprocessor application project, which was launched in July 1978. The project is designed to accelerate the process whereby the public, institutions and industry adjust to microelectronics.

In December 1979 the Department of Employment published a detailed study of the manpower implications. That study has made a valuable contribution towards informing the public on this important subject. In particular, it demonstrates that the wilder predictions regarding the implications of micro-electronic technology are ill founded.

The Manpower Services Commission, through its "Training for Skills" programme, has mounted a programme of action to help spread awareness of a new technology and to ensure that analysis of training needs, training provision and content and throughput of trainees are adequate. It has asked all industrial training boards and appropriate organisations in the non-ITB sector to take full account of micro-electronics in their training strategies and to encourage action as required in their industries to meet future needs. It has made available extensive grant support for courses relevant to new technology, especially in computer-related occupations.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the education service generally are playing their part in responding to the challenge of microelectronic technology through the provision of the appropriate education facilities.

The implications for employment were considered at the meeting of the National Economic Development Council earlier this month. The meeting was chaired by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The TUC and the CBI agreed to hold further discussions aimed at drawing up guidelines on employment and other matters for use by companies introducing new technology. Both sides of industry and the Government are actively considering future implications.

The Department of Employment came across very few companies that expected new technology to lead to redundancies, although there is much evidence that an umber of firms will wish to be able to deploy skilled labour with much more flexibility if they are to innovate successfully. Microelectronic technology offers new opportunities for economic growth and employment. Those who overstress the likely changes in the structure of industry are, perhaps, exaggerating in the context of a debate on leisure in future.

Many hon. Members have naturally considered—it is the main theme of the debate—Government policy on leisure service generally. They have debated whether there should be one, especially in the context of microchip technology. The issue has been highlighted by a number of hon. Members. Such developments are perhaps not the best context in which to consider the future of our arts, theatre, music and sport. That is better considered in terms of the Government's determination to improve the quality of life for the population generally. My hon. Friends the Members for Meriden (Mr. Mills) and for Luton, West spoke of the emphasis that we must place on the handicapped, the disabled and those less fortunate among us.

In our election manifesto we undertook to give as generous support to Britain's cultural and artistic life as the country could afford and to support the Sports Council in the encouragement of recreation and international sporting achievement. That continues to be our policy. However, in view of the grave situation that confronted the Government on taking office last year, it has been necessary to make our first priority the recovery of the British economy. On that all else depends. The task of bringing public expenditure under control has necessitated some limitations to the level of public support for the arts and sport. That is especially applicable to local authority input Nevertheless, important steps forward have been taken.

What is the advantage of having a major leisure service as suggested in the motion? We are determined to do all that we can to sustain and improve facilities for cultural, sporting and recreational projects that are available to the public. These facilities might best be seen as leisure services rather than a single leisure service.

Leisure service activities are many and diverse. Some can be met by commercial enterprise. That was highlighted by my hon. Friends the Members for Reading, North and for Lichfield and Tam-worth (Mr. Heddle). We want to give every possible encouragement to commercial involvement in sport and recreation where industry and commerce will help provide facilities and sponsorship to promote the advantages of which we are talking. That has been particularly valuable in squash, golf, bowls and, as highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth, in marinas and yachting. I shall say a little more about moorings later.

While we are on the subject of extensive sports facilities, I should like to inform the right hon. Member for Small Heath that Ann Yates is pressing on with her inquiry into recreational management training. She hopes to report in the spring or early summer and we can then decide how best to proceed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) insisted that we should try to help those who help themselves. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) spoke with great personal knowledge of sport and highlighted what can be done by voluntary effort. That is most important. We must stress time and again, right through the world of sport and recreation, that organisations that are prepared to raise money and help themselves should be in the best position to receive help from the Sports Council, the Arts Council and so on. Voluntary input should be a hallmark of obtaining assistance from the Government or local authorities.

We want to encourage individual initiative, so that an atmosphere develops that is conducive to private enterprise. I am a great believer in the value of societies and clubs catering for a distinct leisure pursuit—music societies, sports clubs and so on. Much can be achieved by voluntary community activity. I was particularly impressed by the dedication of national organisations such as the National Playing Fields Association and local community groups such as Inter-Action, which champion the need of particular sectors of the community.

In that context, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) made a particularly valuable contribution on adult education. Here we can lead into a much greater understanding not only of objectives but of what is available if we know where to find it. That is relative to the Carlton House Terrace gallery in central London. People did not know about it, so they did not visit the gallery. If there are good facilities, perhaps even round the corner, we must do more to publicise them. There are major agencies which help to achieve that, such as the Countryside Commission in rural pursuits and the Sports Council.

I cross a tiny sword with my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West. He is obviously keen that the Government should be totally involved in sport and recreation. But if the Sports Council did not exist the Government would have to consider in detail each application for financial help. We have always felt that it was better for those matters to be taken away from the Government. The Sports Council, ably led by Dick Jeeps and his colleagues and staff, is better versed to decide which club or sport should receive assistance. I believe that that is the best system for spending our money as taxpayers and for promoting sport.

In the same way, the Arts Council operates independently of the Government once it has received its grant-in-aid, as do the regional arts associations and many other organisations which stand quite separately, such as the Central Council for Physical Recreation, which is totally independent and represents the governing bodies of sport in this country. They all have their part to play.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells) said, there are many organisations in this country which will help with conservation and in looking after the countryside. He mentioned this particularly in the context of field sports. The British Field Sports Society and the Wildfowlers' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, our angling interests and the British Horse Society all play very valuable parts in developing the opportunities for the young and old alike in enjoying recreation in the countryside. How right many hon. Members were to highlight the importance of enjoyment and fun in the context of sport and recreation.

I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North highlighted riding and pony trekking, because this is most important. How right he was to give emphasis to this. Hon. Members also referred—astonishingly in 1980—to the legal definition of a horse relative to planning and local government. I shall look at this matter and see whether it can be resolved within the various Ministries concerned.

The Bill dealing with Dartmoor is a Private Bill and hon. Members must adapt their own individual attitudes to it when it comes before the House. But I hope that the promoters of the Bill will have noticed that there are hon. Members in the House who are already concerned at the possible restrictions in the Bill on sport and recreation. Perhaps they will look at that aspect before it makes further progress.

There was some criticism that perhaps there is not sufficient co-ordination in sport and recreation generally. This is true because so many of the bodies involved are voluntary and have only a limited amount of time in which to be in the closest touch with each other. But the Sports Council, the local authorities and the Arts Council have a very close co-ordinating position in the whole area of sport, recreation and the arts that we are discussing today. It is perhaps not as loose as some hon. Members seem to suggest.

There are 15 regional arts associations in England and Wales. They are independent and autonomous bodies, formed locally by collaboration between local authorities and representative local artistic interests. They aim specifically to co-ordinate the efforts of all those concerned with the arts in the region. They disseminate information about the running of arts centres and the running of projects of various kinds and act as an arts lobby. This would seem, provided that a region has an arts association, to be the sort of way in which we should go in co-ordinating our efforts.

Other institutions, such as the Forestry Commission, were mentioned by hon. Members, particularly by my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden and for Maidstone, in relation to motor sport and riding. The Forestry Commission has the very keenest wish to see our forests used as much as possible for recreation. Of course, it must be careful about safety and fire risks, but I have found the Forestry Commission most helpful.

I have fairly intimate knowledge of a large forest area in the South-West of Scotland and the commission has been helpful in providing there a site for a gliding club, forest walks and a forest drive and it freely allows the forest to be used for motor sport rallies.

I know that motor sport interests are concerned about increasing costs and I am sure that the Forestry Commission will bear in mind that the forest roads could become too expensive to use. It would be disappointing if that happened, because the more motor sport that we can keep off the roads the better. The usual criticism of rallies concerns the movement between stages on public roads. It is better to keep cars on the forest roads, and I do all that I can to help in that respect.

We also wish that as much Ministry of Defence land as possible should be made available, bearing in mind the demands of the Services. Motor cycle scrambling and trials can be held on such land, away from public roads and out of the earshot of those who dislike the noise.

We want to make use of all the facilities that we can lay our hands on for motor sport, which is certainly booming. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden, who has particular expertise and knowledge of the subject, raised it in the debate.

The right hon. Member for Small Heath and a number of other hon. Members stressed the importance of the community. The right hon. Member pointed out that the community is the linchpin of what we are trying to do. The Arts Council has laid stress on community art and a working party set up to investigate the subject in 1973 made valuable recommendations. The Arts Council is playing its part and has given substantial sums to the regional arts associations, which are now fairly widely spread.

Mr. Denis Howell

This is the time of the year when the Government know how much money is to be available in the next financial year. Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that Government finance will be adequate to maintain both centres of excellence in the arts and the community arts programme? It is vital for the Arts Council and those involved in community arts to know that provision will be forthcoming.

Mr. Monro

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has devoted a tremendous personal effort to promoting the arts. I am sure that when the next public expenditure White Paper is published it will be seen that he has made a valuable contribution in the area to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.

The Countryside Commission has an important role to play and is closely involved with the national parks. It was right for hon. Members to stress the importance of advertising the superb facilities available in the national parks and that those who visit the parks should get the greatest benefit from them.

We can do much of value in the countryside if we encourage Outward Bound education. That education is invaluable to the development of character and discipline. One can also develop character and discipline through team games and through the discipline provided by a referee and captain. Outward Bound schools provide opportunities for mountaineering and hill walking under instruction. They provide the thrill of going to the extreme of one's physical capabilities, without going too far. Those schools develop character, and it makes one realise the importance of being taught in the correct way. Many of the sports that we love and enjoy can be dangerous if taken to extremes. Responsibility is vital to such Outward Bound activities and I should like to see those activities developed as much as possible.

The right hon. Member for Small Heath and others have highlighted the importance of the football and community schemes. Indeed, the right hon. Member played an important part in initiating them. I visited some of those schemes, and I realised immediately the advantages that they offer. The Sports Council has given substantial grants to football clubs. Many clubs in the Football League have agreed to provide indoor facilities that are attached to the grounds. Those facilities bring in boys and girls to play indoor football and other forms of recreation. I stress that those facilities are also available to girls, as some hon. Members may worry that they have been left out. Leading players assist in coaching, and a wonderful community spirit is built up. In the short and medium term, that has had an impact on football hooliganism. The more that people feel responsible for a club's facilities, the less likely they are to harm them.

The football community scheme and the Football Ground Improvement Trust improve the standard of our football stadiums. That is something of which we have every right to be proud. I thank the pools promoters and the Football Ground Improvement Trust for their help.

The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich was right when he talked about urban deprivation. The Sports Council is aware of that and it continues to do good work. My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth mentioned planning committees. When an independent application is made to build a sports centre or—however humble—two squash courts, planning committees should go out of their way to overcome any difficulties and to promote something that will be to the advantage of the district. The attitude that it is impossible to do it for one reason or another should be reversed. Planning, committees should say "Come here. We are delighted to see you. Let us overcome our difficulties and get it built." I was once the chairman of a planning committee and I know that that attitude can prevail if the spirit is willing.

My hon. Friends the Members for Reading, North and for Lichfield and Tamworth rightly highlighted the shortage of moorings and the question of canals. I was made aware of that problem when I visited the Boat Show. The Boat Show was obviously a great success. However, the South Coast faces major problems concerning where boats can go at weekends and when they are not in use. I have a message for my colleagues in the Department of the Environment and for local authorities. They should look at these problems sympathetically and see whether they can provide more facilities for a thoroughly desirable form of recreation. Indeed, I believe that we must make as much use as we can of the water that we have available in very large quantities. The Water Space Amenity Commission has done a first-class job to this end. I am grateful to John Humphries, as chairman, for all that he and his colleagues are doing to help.

I have taken the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) about beaches. I shall again discuss this matter within my Department. In the same way, 1 shall bring forward the issue that he raised concerning tourism. I shall certainly report his very strong and correct views on theatres to my right hon. Friend.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Thanet, West asked whether we had a sufficiently close liaison within all the Ministries. Perhaps the answer, genuinely, should be "Perhaps not; not as good as we would like." But it is a close liaison. For instance, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is in charge of the National Heritage Bill, and yet I, as a Department of the Environment Minister, took the Bill through its Committee stage. That shows how intertwined the two Ministries are relative to the heritage.

It is very important that hon. Members raise the issue of dual use of facilities. I have always had this before me as a very important issue. I have talked to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Education and Science, and I hope that, at the appropriate moment, we can make some progress. There is no doubt that we have excellent facilities which are under-used. If we can find ways around the problem, we must do so. I know that there are problems of caretakers and of responsibility, but they must be resolved.

We must not expect too much from the use of playing fields. Sometimes we tend to forget that it rains in this country. If a football field is played on for seven days a week, it is fairly hopeless by December. We have to balance use with the facilities available.

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden raised the issue of museums and galleries. I shall certainly take this up with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and ask him to write to my hon. Friend, because the distribution of funds in this area is fairly complicated. I should like my hon. Friend to have a detailed letter containing the facts for his constituents.

All in all, we have had an extremely valuable debate. I should have liked a little more time to go into more details of our policies. As I have indicated, both my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy and I have done our very best to maintain the financial resources available for sport and recreation and the arts. Indeed, it has been possible to hold the level of expenditure allocated to the Sports Council and to the Countryside Commission. This shows the importance that the Government attach to sport and recreation as something that this country feels is desperately important for the future of our young people.

I like the point mentioned by the right hon. Member for Small Heath about centres of excellence, and, of course, I agree with him. I am glad that they are developing for the very reasons that he projected. I think that this will move on year by year. I know, for instance, that at Bath things have been going particularly well. We want to make sure that this is a development, of a type which runs on for many years after that. I should like to see much closer co-ordination between schools and sports clubs at that important point when young people leave school at the age of 16 and tend to drift away from sport rather than move as a natural thing into a nearby sports club.

We want to see the clubs coming into the schools and the schools being in close contact with the clubs, so that talented boys and girls do not opt out just when they leave school. It is terribly important that we should carry on the good work that starts in school right into sport and recreation in later years. I believe that this is something that will develop, although at present the development is not as fast as it ought to be.

I hope that my remarks on schools generally and on education will fall on receptive ears, because this is where we ought to start, at the base of the pyramid, if we want to have the Coes and Ovetts that we have now for many years to come.

I should like again to thank the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich for initiating an excellent debate. I hope that it will be read by the country. It shows that the House of Commons has a genuine interest in sport and recreation and feels that this is—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

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