HL Deb 17 July 1940 vol 116 cc993-1038

4.14 p.m.

VISCOUNT SAMUEL rose to draw attention to the importance of the provision of proper facilities for physical training; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I should like to make it plain at the outset that in the wording of my Motion referring to physical training, I have in mind physical education of all kinds and not only training for the armed Forces of the Crown. Furthermore, I would invite your Lordships, if you will, to address your minds to this question not only as an immediate problem of war-time but also with an eye to long-term considerations. We have been proud that even in the stress and strain of these days we have not neglected the more permanent issues. For example, with respect to Colonial development, we applauded the action of the Government in proceeding with our programme in spite of the distractions of the hour. Therefore I trust your Lordships will address yourselves not only to the immediate considerations of present physical training.

This subject has aroused from time to time great interest in the nation but somewhat spasmodically. It is an interest that comes and goes in waves. Some time ago we had, for example, a great National Fitness campaign under the leadership of a member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, who I trust will speak this afternoon. That movement was started with great vigour and energy, with all the arts of publicity and propaganda and with the support of considerable sums of public funds. Then, suddenly, it seemed to fade away, and nothing more was heard of it in that form. We had, however, one permanent result in the playing fields movement and in the fact that the greater part of the large sum collected as a memorial to King George V was devoted to the provision of a number of King George's playing fields in various parts of the country. But why did that movement not continue in the form in which it was initiated? Possibly some of your Lordships may be able to say. Now there has sprung up another movement under the auspices of the National Youth Committee the chairman of which is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, Mr. Chuter Ede. I am informed that some 300 local youth committees have been established all over the country and that in general the local education authorities have taken up the subject with considerable energy and enthusiasm. Furthermore, quite recently the Government have succeeded in rendering available for physical training and exercise of various kinds, great numbers of football fields all over the country.

At the same time many voices are heard to the effect that all this is inadequate, that still the dimensions and vigour and effectiveness of the campaign are far short of the national need. This century inherited from last century a large urban proletariat, a great proportion of whom were pale and of stunted physique, poor material for maintaining the greatness of this country and of the British Commonwealth. The well-to-do classes have always been able to care, and to care very efficiently, for the physical development of their sons and daughters. Long after the age of fourteen, when the masses of the children of the nation leave school, up to sixteen, eighteen and even twenty, boys and girls of the wealthier classes are able to enjoy the fullest opportunity for physical development, and what is right for them must surely be right for the nation as a whole. The fact that the great majority do not enjoy these facilities is one example of the inequalities and injustices that still afflict our whole social system and against which we must make headway with the utmost energy that we can. In the present century the nation has been slowly awakening, but very slowly, to the importance of this matter. Much has been done and is being done in various directions, and the health of the people as a whole has undoubtedly improved. The average height of the children of the working classes has shown a marked increase. "No man by taking thought can add a cubit to his stature," but a nation by taking thought can add an inch or two to the average height of its people.

Yet still, as I say, this achievement is very inadequate, and I am informed by an authority entitled to speak, that at the present time, after all that has been done, fully 60 per cent. of the boys and girls in the nation are untouched by any of the youth movements which have been inaugurated. Under conditions of war there is special need for youth movements of various kinds, whether in the form of physical training, boys' and girls' clubs, or similar activities. We know from experience in the last war the very deleterious effect upon the juvenile life of the nation produced by the weakening of parental authority and by the excitement and disorganisation that come from war. Juvenile delinquency enormously increased during those years, and it is essential to obviate those grave conditions now.

But while there is need for even additional and special effort in war-time in these directions, there are increased difficulties in various directions which are patent. In the first place, the boys and girls who are old enough are anxious to render some form of direct service in the war. They do not want to spend their time in training, games and activities of that kind; they want to do air-raid precaution work, or to enter into the munition industry, or, in whatever way comes to their hand, to feel that they are directly helping in the war effort itself. Those of them who do enter munition works are often subjected to the strain and fatigue of long hours, and when their work is over they feel more inclined—and rightly so—for rest than for strenuous games and exercises. But those, after all, are only a minority. Then, again, there are, now as always, competing claims; evening classes on which perhaps the child's future career may depend; the attractions of club life; some may be fond of music, the arts or other occupations. There is always this kind of competition with any attempt to secure adequate physical training out of school hours.

Most important of all among the difficulties that face the movement in war-time, however, is the dearth of teachers and leaders. Almost all those who would normally be engaged in that kind of work are either in one of His Majesty's Forces or else engaged in air-raid precautions organisations, Local Defence Volunteers or some form of direct war activity. It is true that whole-time salaried physical training teachers over the age of thirty are in a reserved occupation and are not drawn into the Army, the importance of their work being recognised; but they are only a handful. Similar considerations, though perhaps to a slightly lesser extent, apply to girls; nevertheless the Girl Guide movement and other analogous movements are being maintained admirably during present conditions, and I think it should be made clear that those who are leaders of these movements are, by carrying them on, also rendering valuable national service.

I am not sure that the nation as a whole realises what it has to face in the Nazi philosophy. We see the formidable power which has overrun the greater part of Europe and which now faces us threateningly, but I do not know that all have fully grasped the ideas which animate it and which give it its impetus. I was reading lately one of the books of that half-insane genius Nietzsche—wholly insane in the latter part of his life—whose brilliant, incisive writings exercise an immense influence in Germany and even outside Germany, and whose ideas have contributed a large part of the very essence of the Nazi philosophy. In this book, written in 1882, he anticipates that— several warlike centuries, which have not had their like in past: history, may now follow one another—in short, that we have entered upon the classical age of war, war at the same time scientific: and popular, on the grandest scale.… So far from regarding this as a great evil for mankind, he goes on to say: to which all coming millenniums will look back with envy and awe as a work of perfection. That sort of maniacal love of war—of "martial glory," as he puts it—is a most formidable danger to the world. These ideas are instilled into the great body of the youth of the German people.

But the Nazi system is not, of course, wholly evil. It could not command the support of tens of millions if there were not some excellencies in it; and there is no doubt that, so fax as the physical development of the youth of Germany is concerned, it has elements which command, and are entitled to command, the approval of the German nation and of those who observe this development. The Board of Education of this country at the end of 1936 sent to Germany a delegation of some of its principal officers, with others, to make a special inquiry into physical training in Germany, and they were given full facilities by the authorities there. They were greatly impressed by what they saw. Those of your Lordships who are interested in the matter will find that they published an extraordinarily interesting Report. There is in Germany a single Minister of Education for the whole of the Reich, and one of the principal divisions of his Department is that which supervises physical training. These measures, of course, are not wholly new; they have been going on for many years in Germany, but they have been greatly developed in the last few years.

One of the original objects of the Nazi Party, one of its 25 fundamental aims, was to raise the standard of the health of the nation, especially through the physical development of the young. Physical training is actively pursued in all the schools, both primary and secondary, and in universities. All the teachers are trained to be able to give physical education. There are a large number of specialist teachers who have a whole year's training in this subject. The Hitler Youth devotes itself largely to these purposes, and numbered more than three years ago—it has probably increased by now—no fewer than 6,000,000 young people. All of them have to pass efficiency tests at the age of 15, 16 and 17 in many sports and physical activities, including Swimming, in which a large proportion of our island population are still wholly untrained. Afterwards there is the movement of Kraft durch Freude—the Strength through Joy movement—which in this country we have been inclined to smile at, partly, perhaps, because of its title, but which has taken an immense development and which, according to the Report of the delegation of the Board of Education, has had remarkably good results. On the athletic side that movement has, as it happens by coincidence, the same number of persons, 6,000,000, being trained under its auspices. Then there is a National Physical Training League, which is a federation of 50,000 athletic and sporting clubs. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of the children, when they leave the elementary schools in the towns, go for a year's work in a land camp and get close to the soil, and are engaged in agricultural pursuits.

Those are some of the main features of this vast movement which has been in active operation in Germany, and which is producing a generation of young people of very remarkable physical capacities. It is, of course, open in many respects to criticism. This Report declares that in methods and performance the physical training given in Germany is not superior to that which is given in this country; and it has, of course, the defect that it is permeated through and through with the methods of compulsion and regimentation which seem to be so dear to the German heart. The Hitler Youth is essentially a political body, and admits, and indeed boasts, that it is so. It does not admit, what is nevertheless undoubtedly the fact, that it is militaristic and instils an aggressive spirit. The delegation declare in this Report that they were greatly impressed—to use their own words—by "a certain tenseness and ultra-seriousness of expression among the young people seen at work in the schools and in the Hitler Jugend." The young people of Germany, they say, are obviously being subjected to "an intense nervous strain," and they suggest that it may be that they "are being driven or are driving themselves up to the very limit of their endurance." We all know, of course, that the intellectual standards of the whole nation are being greatly lowered, and that mind as well as material welfare are being sacrificed to militarism; but—and this is the important point—this delegation of our own experts reports that so far as physique is concerned, "facilities for training are more varied and numerous and the work is much more effectively organised and co-ordinated" than it is in our own country.

I thought that it would be of interest to your Lordships to hear, in case you should not already have observed it, this conclusion which has been arrived at by an unimpeachable authority. Ours is the task to imitate what is good and to avoid what is bad in this highly-developed system. I trust that we shall not be deterred from taking effective action by controversies as to whether the physical training for boys and girls after they leave school ought to be compulsory or not, and whether it should be military or not. Those are important questions which will have to be solved. So far as compulsion is concerned, I imagine that there can be no question of it at this moment, because it is impossible to provide the facilities and the number of teachers that would be required for the millions of people who would at once be brought into these activities. Furthermore, there is the question of the training of the very large numbers of young people who are working at this moment excessively long hours in the war industries.

I express, however, no strong view on that point to-day; I am anxious only to evoke the opinions of others. This is a problem which will have to be faced and solved, and there is undoubtedly much to be said for some measure of general training of the -whole nation—if not now, at all events later—at those ages, just as there has been unanimous agreement that compulsion is necessary for other education at an earlier age. With regard to the connection with military training, it is plain that the new system will have to work in with the general compulsory military service which is now the law of the land; but we are not likely, of course, to go to the exaggerated extreme which has been adopted, for example, in Italy, where boys from the age of eight are brought under military training and these poor little creatures are made to parade with toy guns and to learn the elements of drill. That is a system which must appear to all of us as exceedingly distasteful and it would, one would imagine, probably give the boys a revulsion against the drill, after they had had ten years of it, which must make them dislike a military career even more than they would naturally do.

How these matters will work out is a question for consideration; but the point to which I wish to address myself, and to which I invite the attention of your Lordships' House, is simply this: Is the aim acceptable that the whole of our nation shall be effectively physically trained, and is there the will to achieve that end? The Board of Education has lately issued an admirable circular defining what is desired and the ways of achieving it, but is there the necessary impetus and enthusiasm and the national resolve to carry this great movement to success? That is the question which I wish to address to your Lordships' House and to the Government. I beg to move.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to add my support to the plea which has been made by my noble friend for extended facilities for physical training for the young. I very much hope that the Government will be able to respond favourably to this request; but there is, I think, one aspect of the general problem of the promotion of physical fitness—which is the aim, I believe, that my noble friend has in view—to which he did not allude, and, with your Lordships' permission, I will deal with it briefly. Proper and adequate facilities for physical training for school children—I am thinking mainly of children below the age of sixteen—are not in themselves sufficient to secure the physical fitness of those who are able to take part in them. Vigorous games and gymnastic and other exercises, even under the most expert instructors, are apt to exhaust the child whose strength has been undermined by a long period of malnutrition. The noble Viscount, Lord Dawson, is, I am glad to know, speaking in this debate, and I shall be extremely delighted if I have the good fortune to obtain his support for this point of view. Such children—children who are already in a debilitated state—not only derive no physical benefit from a strenuous course of training, but actually in many cases suffer a further setback in health from the strain on their feeble constitutions.

It is therefore evident that only those young people who are already in a condition of normal good health can profit to the full from extended facilities for physical training and recreation. Furthermore, in the many cases where a wrong or insufficient diet has drained away a large part of a child's energy, these very facilities tend to produce a higher degree of unfitness. According to experts who have often been quoted in your Lordships' House one child in every four in this country below the age of sixteen is suffering from severe under-nourishment. So that the problem facing the Government at the outset of its campaign for physical fitness—a campaign which I think everyone in every Party supports—is to raise these children to the normal nutritional level and to prevent thousands of other children now on the borderline from being driven into the ranks of the under-nourished by the steadily rising cost of living.

Just a word on the relation between the cost of living and standards of nourishment. The cost of living has risen since the beginning of the war by over 20 per cent., which includes a startling rise of 3 per cent. during the last month. The price of many necessaries is bound to rise when the winter comes, and the Purchase Tax foreshadowed in the new Budget must touch the wage-earners' pockets if, as is obviously intended, it is to be an effective instrument for producing revenue. I think that most people are agreed that wages cannot keep pace with rising prices, because that would give rise to the vicious spiral, and the lower standard of living of the wage-earner in war-time represents his share of a financial burden that must be borne by all classes of the community. But when that is granted, we still cannot and dare not allow the wretched standards of the poorly-paid wage-earners with large families to collapse. They are the fathers of 25 per cent. of our children, and they must somehow be exempted from the general law of financial sacrifice. It is not their fault that their wage rate bears no relation to their domestic responsibilities, but it is the fault of the State if it allows so large a proportion of the rising generation to grow up into weaklings.

It is obviously the task of the Government rather than of any, probably ill-informed, private individual to suggest and to carry through a remedy for this state of affairs. I would like to draw attention to one important new departure of policy. The principle of family allowances has been applied since the war began to the dependants of men in the armed Forces. May it not be the case that this is an appropriate moment when the principle should be examined in full with a view, if practical arrangements can be made, to its application to the dependants of men who are equally doing their bit on the home front? There are, of course, everyone must admit, doubts and difficulties in many minds, but I believe that they might well be overcome by a frank inquiry into the possibilities of a practical scheme. In so far as I am expressing an opinion on the subject it is of course a personal rather than an official opinion, but I do believe that the moment has come when the Government might well appoint a Committee of Inquiry into the question of family endowment.

It may seem that the immediate relationship between special payments for dependent children and facilities for physical training is rather remote, but I assure the House that I can personally see no other way of ensuring the physical fitness and the capacity to profit from any extended facilities for physical training that the Government and the local authorities may be able to provide for at least one quarter of the child population of the country—the proportion that is considered by the experts to be already in this debilitated condition. And so, while of course admitting with my noble friend that the difficult conditions of a war on this scale make it extremely hard to promote important measures of social reform, I do sincerely hope that they will do whatever they can to promote the physical fitness of the young, both by the extended facilities for physical training suggested by my noble friend and by ensuring that the children of large impoverished families may be able to acquire what they need in order to build up healthy bodies.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Samuel in his very interesting account of what is being done both in this country and in Germany, seems to bring out one striking fact. On the one hand he showed us how well organised, how well-thought-out from A to Z, is the German system, at any rate so far as the physical training of its youth is concerned, but on the other hand he showed what an untidy conglomeration are our efforts at physical education—a great many extremely worthy voluntary efforts, with patchy distribution here and there, gathered together into a really untidy collection. If for one moment, however, I pass to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, I would say at once that good nutrition and physical education must go hand in hand. They are two matters which should go in double harness. But, having said that, I think this is not the occasion to enlarge on questions of nutrition; that is worthy of a debate by itself. But in passing I should not have said that nutrition in this country is going backwards; on the contrary I should say it is going steadily forward. Those who are unable to buy proper food are less numerous than they were. And there is another matter: malnutrition is not always the result of inability to get food. It is also partly due to the fact that those who have to handle the food do not know how to choose and how to cook it. On a previous occasion when I had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House I suggested to the then President of the Board of Education that one of the cheapest and most effective campaigns he could carry out would be to send vans round the country to the rural districts, with teachers in them, to show people how to choose food and how to cook it, and thus bring them somewhat nearer to the level of the housewives to be found on the Continent.

My noble friend brought out that a large proportion of the youth of this country do not possess the structure and strength of body to which they are entitled and of which they are capable. I can bring that point out by putting forward a contrast. Day by day we read with pride of the deeds of skill and valour performed by our young men in the air and on the sea. These young men are selectively trained, they can indulge their own individuality, they each have their own initiative and enterprise, within the compass of a common discipline. In contrast we have to turn and contemplate large numbers of youths employed in industry, their bodies lacking shape and vigour, their minds lacking aim and purpose. They are drifting, instead of steering a course on life's sea. If I may add to that, we have proved by experiments many times that if we take groups of these youths in the second category, and put them into camps, give them adequate food, give them physical training, afford them opportunities for games and recreation and give them community life, in a very few months they will add an inch or more to their stature, two inches round their chest, a stone in weight. That is an eloquent fact which shows that our youths do not lack great potentialities. What they lack is opportunity. If we can produce these results—and they have been produced many times—it shows there is something lacking in our educational system in not producing them every day.

I should next like to pose this question: Why has physical education in this country been so long neglected, and why, even to-day, are we so laggard in promoting its progress? First and foremost I would say it is due to the fallacy, obstinately held for generations, that while it is necessary to educate a youth's mind, it is not necessary to educate his body. For this incredible folly the educated classes and their educators have been responsible. They have continued to sin against the light, to cold-shoulder physical education, notwithstanding the lessons of Greek antiquity before them. They also should be well aware that for over a hundred years Scandinavia has been carrying on an efficient system of education with the greatest benefit to its people. They have not even been roused by what has been happening in Germany in the last twenty years. It is remarkable that we have not been moved to firm action much sooner and that we have this tremendous leeway to make up. With others, I represented this country last July at the international celebration of the centenary of Ling. Many times, when I was witnessing that scene, f wished the "stiff-necks" of this country could have been there to see that wonderful festival of strength and beauty of body and mind alike.

Here perhaps I should pause, before I forget, to say that to-day we are dealing with males because we have to deal with man-power. It is not possible to deal with the girls' question at the same time, and I should like to say this further, that it is not so necessary because in physical training the girls are considerably ahead of the boys of this country. Anybody can witness that by walking in the streets and seeing the girls of to-day, with much better posture, much better carriage, and on the whole, better shape than the majority of the boys of the same age. That is partly due to the fact that the girls are ahead of the boys in the matter of training colleges. There is more enthusiasm; they got going earlier, they are further ahead, and they offer us an example to follow.

The good side of the picture with regard to physical training in this country is the school children, because the Board of Education have for the last twenty years or more introduced a progressive system of physical education for the children in schools, with the best possible results, for the children, up to the end of school age. A delightful way of witnessing that is to go to a primary school at the time the children come out from their morning lessons, and see them all tumble out one on top of another, full of vigour and joy. Their figures are a delight to look upon. The majority of the schools I have visited have shown, on the whole, good nutrition. Think of the contrast that follows. All of a sudden, at fourteen, everything is brought to a standstill, and at the most critical age. Henceforth the adolescents are left to drift, with the result that their bodies deteriorate—and how on earth their characters do not deteriorate more than they do is remarkable. That is the very period that the Germans have made it their business specially to study, from motives that are not the same as ours. At any rate, during that time, we leave these youths without the means of being trained and of developing the physique they deserve and the nation so sorely needs.

Perhaps your Lordships will permit me a moment or two in which to recall the relative roles of physical training and games. Physical training secures that the body grows in symmetry of strength and proportion. It teaches posture and carriage, neither of which is an inborn quality; they have to be learned by the human body just as we have to learn reading and writing. The explanation of that is probably evolutionary. It is, biologically, in recent days that Man assumed the erect posture, and he has yet to be taught in his youth how to stand and how to walk. Further, basic physical training teaches youths to develop flexible frames. They learn to use their muscles and also effective breathing. All this is the duty of physical training. If I might say a word in reply to Lord Listowel, if we were to feed the children up and not give them proper physical training we should develop a nation of deformities. I give one example in passing of the correlation between physical and mental defects. I take the simple example of flat feet. Why is it that so often youths with flat feet are rather depressed and defeatist in their attitude towards life? It is "Flat foot, flat mind." They can both be cured by proper physical training. In that way we could account for 80 per cent. of the cases if they were treated sufficiently early.

On the basis of this physically trained body comes the invaluable factor of sports education. There is no system of physical training with which I am acquainted that does not link sports and games with basic physical training. Thereby youths develop alertness and concentration, they get that sense of joyous struggle, and the discipline of playing for their side. All games should embrace that larger sphere of getting outside the track and the playground and should penetrate to the wider world of Nature. Such are compass games, scouting, climbing, sailing, trawling and, even better than all perhaps, exploring expeditions. Those activities, besides making for fitness, bring out imagination, promptitude of decision, endurance, unselfishness and all the qualities which make up the best type of British boy. In general it would be a poor sort of physical education or training that did not envisage the things of the spirit and character as well as those of the body. That brings me to this submission that a youth discovers his spiritual values through the medium of his body. Those values in youth are implicit before they are explicit. On the other hand if you get a youth whose aspirations and values get too detached from his body, he is in grave danger of becoming introspective and depressed, and more liable than other youths to internal conflicts as he grows up.

I would like to pass now to consider the many earnest voluntary efforts which have been made to make our young people fit. They are legion, admirable in results, each in its own sphere, and often in the face of great difficulties. I need only mention the Scouts and Rovers, and the Brigades and Boys Clubs. They have helped to shape our civilisation, and of that great leader, Baden Powell, we would always wish in a debate like this to speak with gratitude as a benefactor of our race. This went on till the year 1935, and then a sense arose in the country that something must be done to bring these scattered, patchy efforts into some sort of co-ordination. That resulted in the formation of the Council of Physical and Recreative Training. That was a step on. That council was blessed by His then Majesty's Government, but it received no official support. It did, however, do a certain amount of work to bring these efforts together.

Next, in 1937, following a rousing call by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Physical Training and Recreation Bill was passed into law, and included financial provision for a capital sum of £2,000,000 spread over three years and £150,000 a year. The policy of that body was one of persuasive guidance at the centre, stimulated by money grants to local authorities and voluntary bodies who were interested in sport activities. The guiding body was the National Fitness Council under the energetic leadership of my noble friend Lord Aberdare, and I was one of many who served under him during the existence of the National Fitness Council. The out- break of war brought all these activities to a close. I think we are in a position now to make a retrospect of what the National Fitness Council achieved, and what it would have achieved if it had not been swept aside by the outbreak of war. I am bound to say, as a member of that body, that I think it was doomed to failure. I do not think it would have succeeded in gathering together the innumerable scattered efforts and bringing them into some coherent whole in the shape of physical education.

What then is the position now? It is this. Our country is in a crisis of its history, and the strength and endurance of its whole man-power, including that of our youth, is vital to victory, and in that man-power we must include boys who are industrial workers to-day but are going to be soldiers to-morrow and citizens the day after. The organisation therefore of physical education is a matter of urgent and grave national importance, and in my judgment it can only be effected in one way. That is to gather the experience which was learned from the Physical Fitness Council, which failed for the reason that it had no power to enforce a basic policy throughout the country on which voluntary and local efforts could be built. Its persuasion was not useless, but it was ineffective, because the power to enforce did not exist. For my part I do not believe that any scheme that is put forward is going to be of any avail unless it has some power of enforcement behind it. After all, if we go back to 1870 there was an enforcement of compulsion behind the great Act of Parliament that Gladstone passed for elementary education. The sense of compulsion in regard to that Act lasted perhaps for a year, and then education became a habit of the people. So I think it would be in the case of physical education now. We have a later example of compulsion in the Fisher Act agreed to by Parliament, but alas! not yet implemented.

I now come to what, in my judgment should be done. To crystallise thought I make bold to put forward suggestions for prompt action. Appoint a Director or Commissioner of Physical Training with full and, if needful, compulsory powers to direct physical training from fourteen years of age upwards. He must be a man himself possessed of knowledge of physical training and recreation in all its branches and also of administration. In this country we all too frequently appoint decorative heads. When it comes to the law it you have a difficult criminal case to be tried you do not appoint a Chancery Judge, to try it, if you can avoid it; you appoint a Judge accustomed to criminal procedure. So here we should be guided by knowledge and appoint as physical director a man who is possessed of that knowledge. My next suggestion is that this Director would need a small staff, but if he is to be swift in action he must have no cumbrous committees. My noble friend Lord Samuel referred to the Youth Committee. The personnel of that Committee is widely representative of knowledge, but as a body they move at such a rate that it will be some years before their conclusions are reached. On the last occasion we adjourned for a month. One might almost think there is no war. We have reached the stage when we do not want to see many committees, but rather people with full powers to act. And that is my suggestion on this occasion.

In the earlier years this physical training would be based on the Board of Education, and its work would be carried out through existing educational and voluntary organisations as far as these could be worked into the general plan, but with a power on the part of the Director of directing and, if necessary, overriding them. Any sensible man would of course use all the agencies he had and use persuasion wherever he could and leave compulsion as much as possible in the background. When youths reach the age of eighteen physical training would be based on the War Office and the War Office would be in co-operation with the other Fighting Services. The Director would maintain liaison between the Board of Education and the War Office and also with the Minister of Labour so as not to interfere with production and to get all possible co-operation with the Minister of Labour's valuable schemes of welfare. During the whole of this physical training: youths in training would, without doubt, require supplementary feeding, and milk is a solution of that. With such a system in being youth would find strength and purpose. Their industrial production would benefit and the time necessary to train them as recruits would be considerably lessened.

Some people say that if we had proper pre-military training it would reduce the necessary time for training recruits by over one half. Another result which I suggest would be valuable is that there would arise a formidable youth movement with its own leaders—and that is what we want—to add strength to the voice of the country in the prosecution of the war. As an immediate beginning, I suggest that one hundred youths might be selected from existing organisations and seconded for two months' training as leaders. I have no doubt that for this purpose there would be available private houses which are unoccupied, or possibly schools. That would give the new Director two months and at the end of that two months he would have had time to mature his plans. These youth leaders would then be ready for service in the parts of the country to which they belong and would set an example to the youth about them.

I put forward these concrete suggestions because in these grave times one should not only talk but should suggest some line of action. In my judgment, the situation is really critical and without delay a system of physical education should be set up under one head. Does any one doubt that if these sons of Great Britain were given their chance they would prove themselves to be possessors of the great inheritance that belongs to this country? Indeed evidence goes to show that they are eager, and getting increasingly eager, and that they are only waiting for a sign and a prophet to come into their midst. Therefore, with great respect and equal earnestness, I ask the Government to take the necessary powers to give physical training this unity of command, and thus rally the energy and enthusiasm of our youth to the waging of this war for freedom and prepare them for a greater citizenship in the time to come.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to ask your attention for a very few minutes only. I cannot attempt to cover the ground as was done by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in his most interesting speech, nor can I for a moment attempt to make such a contribution to the subject as that just made by my noble friend Viscount Dawson, with his special knowledge and experience. I think I agree with practically everything he has just said, except that I am a little doubtful as to how far his dictatorial development might carry us. I am not sure that this super-trainer he has in view would be either forthcoming or, if he were, that he could be allowed that complete freedom which my noble friend wishes him to possess. Where I entirely agree with everything he said is on the supreme importance of the subject. I think we are indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for having brought it before us. The age-group between fourteen and eighteen has been admittedly a gap in our national social, educational and industrial system which has been allowed to remain unfilled far too long. That is why, when the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, in this House sketched his plan for national youth committees in different parts of the country, I ventured to describe it as marking an epoch in the history of education in this country. How far that has been followed up, it is difficult to say. I dare say the noble Viscount who will reply to the discussion may tell us what these youth committees are doing and have been able to do.

There is considerable conflict of opinion on the matter. What is certain is that whatever they do will depend very largely for success on how far they bring within their scope this question of physical training. I am not going to discuss the question of a compulsory or voluntary system of physical training. I agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said. At the present time I find it difficult to conceive that compulsion can be exercised. We have not only the fact that happily a very large number of those within this age-group are already engaged in most useful forms of national service of one kind or another, giving part of their time or their whole time to that service, but, as he pointed out, we have also a very large number of young people within these ages employed in munition factories, where the strain is already very great and where sometimes they have to work until a very late hour. I doubt very much whether compulsory physical training in addition to these labours would not mean much more an increase in strain than an increase in recreation. I would add that I think the question of a system of physical training, the necessity of which cannot be too strongly insisted upon, must wait until we have reached a point when we have settled whether or not there is to be a compulsory system of continuation schools of one kind or another.

But that is by the way. My main point is independent of that particular question. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, called attention to the Hitler Youth movement and I know many people throughout the country were at one time attracted by the spectacle presented by this most impressive youth movement in Germany. There are many elements of attraction. One is that it brings into one single movement the boys and, to some extent, the girls of every class, so that whatever their class may be—if we are to use the word "class"—within that movement they are all one. But the more knowledge we have of that Hitler Youth movement the more we see that its dangers far exceed its merits. I do not know whether your Lordships have been able to read a remarkable book which I have just finished reading, called Hitler Youth by Hans Siemsen. It gives every sign of credibility and sincerity and it is just because it is so simple and restrained that it gives a very painful impression. It is quite clear that the Hitler Youth movement is simply part of that vast State machine which has so long been crushing any sort of individualism out of the German people. A member of the Hitler Youth does not think, dare not think; does not criticise, dare not criticise; it is his business to be silent, to obey and to march. I doubt very much whether it will be proved that the Hitler Youth movement has had very much military value even in the present war. I am not at all sure that it will not be proved that mere physical efficiency and the instinct of obedience can never be a match for individual initiative and resource.

But, apart from that, it is plain that one of the chief causes of the moral evils of the Hitler Youth—and I will only say that these are most serious—and also its mental, social and spiritual evils, is the fact that the Hitler Youth movement has been based upon the suppression of the voluntary organisations. There were many of these in Germany, some of them admirable—religious and social. One by one they have been steadily crushed out. It is there, I think, that we have to learn a lesson for this present problem. Whatever system of physical training may be involved, whether voluntary or compulsory, it is to my mind essential that it should work with and not suppress the existing voluntary associations and organisations throughout the country. I need not specify them; they are all familiar to your Lordships; they have been mentioned by Lord Dawson—the Scouts, the Guides, the Brigades, the clubs of one kind or another. It is perfectly true that these organisations do not reach 60 or 70 per cent. of those who axe within this age-group, and for that reason I welcome what has been foreshadowed by the Board of Education. But they will make at least two contributions to this matter which are of great value. The first is that they can supply the all-essential element of leadership. I doubt whether that is to be obtained from any other source in a similar degree. At present, of course, that leadership is defective because so many of those who would have provided it are engaged in the active service of their country. But even here the experience of the Scouts is very interesting. I hope that perhaps the Chief Commissioner, who I think may speak later, may develop the point, but I understand that it has been proved that lads of seventeen or eighteen who have gone through the whole patrol system show themselves, by the very fact of the training through which they have passed, even at that age to be most capable and efficient leaders. When you remember that the Scouts and Guides already represent about a million of the youth of the country, it is plain that they are a most invaluable training-ground for the leadership that is needed.

The second element of usefulness which they can contribute to the problem is that they are a leaven of the right kind of influence. Important as is the development of muscle, the development of character is of greater importance; and we want to turn out men and not pieces of a machine, however efficient it can be. There is a great danger, I always think, of isolating physical training and dealing with it apart. It is quite clear that there would be a great danger if the body were so developed that the mind was neglected. You need people all over the country who are concerned to see that the young people within this age-group have given to them mental interests—I believe the current phrase in these days is "cultural interests"—as well as physical. No one will deny the supreme importance of the spirit, for it is there, in the region of ultimate beliefs and ideals, that the basis of character must be made. I believe that in the voluntary associations, whether they be religious or social, which have done such admirable work in many parts of the country, there will always be operative that kind of influence which prevents physical training from being unduly isolated.

These, my Lords, are commonplaces, and I ought to apologise for having even alluded to them, but for the very reason that they are commonplaces they are apt to be neglected. The conclusion is that I earnestly hope that, whatever system of physical training may be introduced, whether it be through Lord Dawson's super-trainer or otherwise, one fundamental point of it will be not to supersede but to co-operate with all those voluntary organisations which have already proved their worth.

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to add my word of thanks to the noble Viscount for moving this Motion, which sets a seal on a good deal of the confusion which has been in the public mind almost, one might say, since the outbreak of war, with regard to efforts for our young people. I may certainly say that there has been a very large measure of confusion among those who have been running organisations for young people as to what everything is pointing to, what we are leading up to, and what may be the ultimate Government decision as a result of it all. As has been pointed out, we have seen first the death of the National Fitness Campaign, which synchronised with the opening of the war. Out of that arose—from its ashes, so to speak—the National Youth Committees, which have now spread pretty well throughout the country and of which the result has not yet been very apparent. Then we have had a sort of individual effort in the Manchester scheme, devised by various people up in Lancashire, which has a great deal to be said for it, but this again has not yet had time to produce any fruits. Last of all we have this Circular 1516. I should like to call your Lordships' attention to just one paragraph of it, because we in the voluntary organisations should like to know whether this is indeed the Government's last word for the moment. Any attempt at a State-controlled uniformity or regimentation would be both stupid and perilous; more than that, it would be really alien to the spirit of this country.

You can therefore imagine that I come to the House this afternoon in a state of some anxiety to know what is to be the Government's reply to the noble Viscount's Motion. I should like to speak, as one of the "untidy collection" to which Lord Dawson referred, I thought a little unkindly, of all those voluntary organisations which have been striving for so many years to do what perhaps many people think the Government ought to have done for them. In one case the noble Viscount was not quite correct. If I may correct him, all their efforts have not been brought to a close by the war.


Might I intervene? There is some misunderstanding here, my Lords. I did not say that these admirable voluntary associations were brought to an end by the war; I said that the National Fitness Council was brought to an end by the war. If I may recall for one moment, I was careful to emphasize that there had been about the country for many years many admirable and wonderfully well-run voluntary organisations. I instanced the Scouts, Rovers and others as well, such as the Brigades. I instanced them most carefully and made it clear that they are admirable and have worked wonderfully in the face of great difficulties. At the present time, however, they are not enough to cover the whole country. My object in suggesting that there should be one head was not to suppress them, but, on the contrary, to secure better cooperation between them and to fill in the gaps.


I beg the noble Viscount's pardon; I misunderstood him on that point. I should like, in continuation, to call attention to what the most reverend Primate has mentioned—the enormous volume of essential services performed by members of the youth organisations, not only since the war started but, at any rate so far as the Boy Scouts Association is concerned, since the year before the war, in training for the war itself. This is still going on, and is growing. I need mention only, for instance, the waste-paper scheme, and the collection of aluminium and of every kind of waste which can be of value to the nation, as well as the very large messenger service, which I think has proved its value over and over again. When every evening I go to look after my platoon of Local Defence Volunteers, I find a certain number of Boy Scouts ready with their bicycles to carry any messages which I may wish to send to my section leaders and so on. They are doing wonderful work. I refer to that to show that any effort at regimentation at this time—although I do not say that in the wisdom of the Government it may not be found to be the best solution—will cause the cutting off to a very large extent of that great voluntary effort which is being made by young people, and which has a very great moral effect on their characters, besides being of great value to the nation.

There is another point with regard to the voluntary organisations with which I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson, will agree, and it is this. One of the great values of the voluntary system in this country is the number of methods of approach which it has to the young mind, and the fact that through their variety it can attract almost every temperament among young people. I do admit, however, and all of us who are concerned with the voluntary organisations admit, that their great weakness is that they touch only some 40 per cent. of the young people. We have spread our net very wide, but even with this immense variety—Scouts, Brigades, clubs of many kinds, and the many age groups for which we cater—there is, as far as we are concerned, an untouchable 60 per cent., or perhaps 75 per cent.—it is difficult to give an exact percentage. At this time, however, it must be remembered that a large number of those included in that percentage are engaged in industry and are working very long hours. It is doubtful whether it would be possible, therefore, unless they were withdrawn to a very large extent from industry, to impose on them the further strain of physical training. However, we who are concerned with voluntary organisations freely admit that we could not tackle everybody, and it is a weak point that there is this large untouched residue for which we admit there should be some scheme.

I very much appreciate the hope expressed by the most reverend Primate that in any scheme which the Government may bring forward—if there is indeed to be a scheme to upset this very recent Circular issued by the Board of Education—as far as possible the identity of the great voluntary organisations should be left untouched. I can here and now give the pledge that if the Government in their wisdom wish to bring forward any form of compulsory scheme, my Association will help them in every way in our power. There are, however, certain difficulties, with regard to leadership, for instance. Perhaps I may be allowed to emphasize a few. We find it most difficult to get leaders, especially at this time. We have, as the most reverend Primate suggested, a great measure of success in training our own young leaders, and I should very much like to show your Lordships some of the immense number of letters which we have received since the outbreak of war from commanding and other officers, and indeed from the ranks themselves, in all the Services, testifying to the great value of their training.

A young man wrote the other day, after coming back from Dunkirk, that he had found himself as a Lance-Corporal left alone with a little posse of men, entirely responsible for their safety. He had been through the ranks of the Scouts from Wolf Cub to Patrol Leader, had camped with them and had led them through the night by the stars, and so he was fit immediately for leadership; and he wrote that he did not know what he would have done if it had not been for his scout training. I do plead that the possibilities of that kind of thing, which we have proved, should not be overlooked in any Government scheme.

A great deal has been said about the Hitler Youth. It has naturally been my job for many years past to make a close study of the Hitler Youth, although I have not, unfortunately, been able to go to Germany to see them. I was invited to do so some years ago, but for various reasons it was not then possible. I would advise your Lordships that a study of Hans Siemsen's little book, Hitler Youth, is well worth while. It may not be conclusive, but it draws a very evil picture of one side of the German system. We like to think—and from all the evidence that is forthcoming we believe that we are thinking rightly—that the leadership shown by our young officers in the battles that have taken place so far, and the wonderful initiative shown by our young airmen and their leaders, are superior to those of the enemy. May it not be that the voluntary system under which they have spent their youth has proved more elastic, more efficient from the point of view of the present type of warfare, than any cast-iron system which they would have learnt through the Hitler Youth?

With regard to the practical difficulties of any system of this kind, it is, as I say, a question of having a sufficient number of leaders of boys and young men, as compared with those who might be adequate to deal with the adult soldier who joins up. Another difficulty, of course, is that of accommodation. No doubt any Government scheme would readily provide sufficient funds for huts and so on. Any scheme of this kind for young people, however, is complicated to a great extent nowadays by the Government evacuation scheme. There are many areas in the country now where there are hardly any young people to be dealt with, and there are many areas where there may be far more than could be dealt with efficiently.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships any further, but I should like to add one last word. I believe that these voluntary organisations which have been built up and proved throughout these years are a very great heritage of this country, and that nothing should be done to upset in any way the fundamental idea which lies behind them, the great moral, basic idea, the idea of service to others, service to the nation, and above all service to God, which the Hitler Youth has not and never will have. I hope that if any Government scheme is forthcoming for any form of compulsory physical training, careful consideration will be given to the question of how far it shall serve war needs and war needs only or shall be carried forward into the unknown future. Because, if I may once more urge the case of my own Association, there are two sides to it. There is the education and the helping of our youngsters here in England and in our Empire, and on the other side there has been built up this great brotherhood of young men and boys throughout the world, numbering now over three and a half millions; and, mind you, Hitler has not been able to crush those—that we know from reports received. They may have to work underground, but the spirit of friendship, camaraderie, and brother-liness is still there, and it is that which we want to preserve until peace comes round again.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene only for a moment to ask His Majesty's Government one very definite question. It has reference to the point mentioned by my noble friend Lord Samuel, and raised in a definite form by the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn. What do the Government propose to do in order to secure for the 60 per cent. of fourteen-year-old boys who now receive none, the same measure of benefit which the 40 per cent. receive through the Boy Scouts, Boys' Brigades and other voluntary organisations, which admittedly give such admirable training? I do not want to go into the relative merits of the Hitler Youth and the Boy Scout movement, for indeed there can be no question of the immense superiority of our method. I myself, with two sailor friends of mine, have seen the Hitler Youth, the labour camps and all the German organisations. I was taken round by a German Admiral and I saw it all. It was wooden, it seemed to me to be in every way far behind our Boy Scout training, and I am sure that is true.

The point is not to compare that method with ours but, as Lord Dawson of Penn has pointed out, to compare that tidy system, by which every youth has a chance of improving in body and mind, with the untidy system by which 40 per cent. get this admirable training—or indeed, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Hampton, possibly only 25 per cent.—and the 60 per cent. or 75 per cent. get none at all. Now it is beside the point to say, "Oh, but many of these 75 or 60 per cent. are working very hard, and if you give them more physical training you do more harm than good." All you have to do is to give them the fresh air and exercise and interest in improving their bodies which all the other boys have. I do plead with the Government—I propose to put down a Motion in reinforcement of Lord Dawson's plea—to consider that all the sons of the well-to-do begin their admirable training when they are fourteen and it goes on until their adult age comes, whereas 60 per cent., we are told—and it is even suggested that the figure is 75 per cent.—of the youth of the other class have none of that advantage. That is wrong. I heard it said before I came to this debate, "Well, of course, it is war-time now; you had better wait. The thing can come gradually." I plead with the Government to say, "Not at all. We must act swiftly. We will accept Lord Dawson's general idea that there should be compulsion to see that every boy gets a chance." I hope and trust that His Majesty's Government will indicate that they will do that.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, this debate seems to have shown that the problem with which we are faced is not merely the simple problem of the organisation of physical training by the Board of Education, but the much more complex problem which arises when it is realised that physical training is not an end in itself, but only the foundation of training for service. The Board of Education in their Circular No. 1516 make this perfectly plain, and they say: Opportunities for service must therefore be offered to young people as well as opportunities to equip themselves for service. But what that Circular does not go on to state clearly, or at any rate not clearly to me, is exactly what service is now required. We may be building on a long-term policy, and we should build on it, but at the moment the sort of service that we require is war service for most boys; and by war service I do not include only military service, although in present conditions a very large percentage of boys who are fit will end up in the armed Forces of the Crown, but those who do not end up in that way will end up in some form of physical labour, whether it is agriculture or the manufacture of munitions or what not. One thing I hope is clear, and that is that this generation of boys are not going to be trained to be black-coated workers.

Therefore, the problem seems to me to be not merely how to perfect a national scheme of physical training as such, run by the Board of Education, but how to make a wider national plan for the training of youth in character, in self-reliance and in discipline—all of which things develop logically from physical training through the various forms of recreational training, activity training and training of intelligence, and all of these lead up, more especially in time of war, to pre-military training. You may say that this is an argument designed only for the needs of the present war-time. But, after all, that is what we are facing. It is perfectly true that that would not have been the object three or four years ago; we devoutly trust it will not be the object in years to come. But in the meantime it is the object, and compulsory military training is the law of the land. And if at any time it becomes desirable to alter that law and to reintroduce voluntary military service, then the ingredients in our youth training can be altered to suit. So the problem in front of us seems to mo not to be merely a departmental matter, the concern solely of the Board of Education, but a contract to which there are three groups of parties—the Board of Education itself, no doubt the principal partner, the Service Departments, who know what their requirements are—and among those I think one should include the Board of Agriculture and the Ministry of Supply—and finally, as several noble Lords have stressed this afternoon, the voluntary organisations who have been working in the field for a long time and who understand the problem in a way that no other people do.

But all this has bean said many times in the last few years, in your Lordships' House and elsewhere, and something has been happening which has prevented the schemes put forward by the Board of Education from coming to fruition. If I may, I would make one or two suggestions of where to look for the trouble. My first suggestion is that recreational training and physical training have possibly not always been so clearly distinguished as they might have been. I wonder, for example, if better results would have been attained if the schools for physical training instructors could have been opened, for after all, recreational training is not indulged in by those boys who are not fit, and physical training is often necessary as a preliminary in order that a boy can take a part in recreational training.

My second point is that while so much work has been clone by Committees, by advice, by consultation, there have been relatively few organs of executive action. There were these Committees—three or four of them—with all-star casts composing them, and yet after four years, when so much advice had been given, so little executive action had been taken. Then again, it seems to me, there has been a good deal of lack of co-operation between various sides of Whitehall—and here I speak for the British National Cadet Association. That Association, like the other Service Associations, has suffered much from being sponsored by the War Office and therefore being ineligible for certain grants and other privileges which would have come from the Board of Education, At the same time the Service Departments are saying they can provide no instructors. I feel that all these difficulties could be cleared away if Government direction were given to the Departments concerned to take executive action on the matter and settle a plan which can be put through.

Finally, there is this further vexed question of compulsion or not. But is not compulsion rather a bogey? There are so many things we are compelled to do already, why should we leave out something which we admit is necessary? The lack of compulsion does result in many boys falling out of the business of physical training, recreational training, and training in leadership when they fall outside the orbit of the Board of Education. Once they leave the weaker boys drift off, and only the stronger and more self-reliant boys, boys with more initiative, the fitter boys, join these voluntary organisations. To that extent a voluntary scheme must always in some measure preach to the converted. There is a difference between compulsion and what one might call regimentation. The need seems to be for nearly every boy to join some body or other. What would be a disaster would be any form of compulsion which throws out the voluntary associations. Therefore, what is wanted to my mind is a plan which will enable the voluntary associations who are worthy to co-operate and, if possible, a compulsory scheme which would have to be applied slowly and might require a large number of exemptions in the first instance, with the object of getting at the boys outside the scope of the Board of Education and of the voluntary associations.

If these are the difficulties, then it seems to me we want, first of all, a clear Government policy of what service youth is expected to give. We do not want vague words and statements like that at the foot of page 3 of the Circular: A wisely directed and comprehensive scheme of physical recreation would result in a desire for bodily fitness, a greater capacity for comradeship and a higher appreciation of true chivalry and good sportsmanship. Something a little more practical than that is needed at the moment as an ideal for youth. The second thing is again inter-Departmental and not Departmental—namely, a direction by the Government to the Board of Education and to the Service Departments concerned to get round a table with such voluntary associations as are worthy to co-operate in the scheme—and here I include, first and foremost, the Boy Scouts' Association, the three Service Cadet Associations, and a large number of the Brigades and other associations who are already co-operating. These bodies and their representatives could work out a scheme together, providing for the compulsory training of youth in character and leadership so as to bridge the gap from the time that the Board of Education hands them over to the time the Service Departments take them over. Lastly there is the point the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson, mentioned—namely, unity of control. In these times, when events move so swiftly, there is no time for consultation and advice. The Government must make up their mind to entrust the matter to one small body, possibly to one man, and let that body or that man issue instructions, form schemes, and carry them out with Government support and Government finance.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, before dealing with the Motion, I am sure noble Lords will join with me in congratulating the noble Viscount who has just sat down on the honour which has lately been conferred upon him for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field. My object in rising to address the House for a very short time is to draw attention to a scheme that has been brought forward during the last few weeks by the Central Council of Recreative Physical Training, helped by the Football Association. This scheme—"Fitness for Service"—is in co-operation with the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, with the Board of Education, the Ministry of Labour, and the Ministry of Home Security. It has had a very remarkable success. In under three weeks no fewer than 140 training centres have been started. It is impossible for me to tell your Lordships the exact numbers, but I suppose one might say that we now have thirty thousand men undergoing training. The attendances are good, and the numbers are increasing daily. The Central Council is grant-aided by the Board of Education in respect of the fourteen to twenty group, but for those over that age we are dependent on private donors. Your Lordships will agree with me that if this scheme proves the success it seems to be doing, then it is entirely wrong that the part applying to the older men should be financed privately.

There has been a certain amount of criticism of this scheme, mainly based on the idea that any voluntary scheme, however good it is, does not fill the Bill. That is the point of view, I think, that Lord Dawson took. Personally, whatever the value of compulsion as compared with the voluntary system in this regard, I do not think you could possibly choose a more inopportune time than the present to bring in a vast scheme of compulsory physical training. Therefore I would conclude my remarks by saying that by far the wisest line the Government can take on this subject is to build on the existing machinery which they have already in working order.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to thank those noble Lords who have made reference to myself as Chairman during its short life of what is now known as the National Fitness Council. I naturally would have wished to take up in this debate many points, but I fear the time is getting late, and that many aspects of this subject have already been dealt with. Therefore I will try as far as I can to confine myself to one or two points which I think so far have not been mentioned. At the same time I would ask your Lordships to bear with me if I do sometimes make reference to the work of the National Fitness Council.

I would like to meet the criticism made by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, that there is a fog in the eyes of the public in regard to what has been happening in respect of this work. I, of course, am speaking entirely as an individual member of your Lordships' House, and not in any official capacity. I am sure that I and very many others who are enthusiasts on this subject are most grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for raising this question in your Lordships' House. It seems to me that it is a. question which has lacked publicity and propaganda at all times. The noble Viscount said that we had only tackled this question spasmodically. I am not sure that I entirely agree with that. It seems to me that the Board of Education have tackled the question of dealing with the children in the schools very well indeed and far from spasmodically during the last thirty years. I think it is only fair to say that the Board's handling of the physical training of young people in the schools has been in recent years admirable. I am informed that wherever new buildings are put up they are always equipped with the necessary gynasium, or with a room in which physical training can be properly taught.

Although I personally have had very good treatment from the Press I feel that on those occasions when I myself or members of the Council have been round the country, in spite of the admirable publicity at the time, unluckily nothing comes of it. No sort of progress seems to have been made. There seems to have been no follow-up. If we could have had a little more backing from that quarter I think we should have made better progress. Perhaps in speaking those words I should make an exception in the case of The Times newspaper. There have been not only leading articles but very often articles written by special correspondents in that newspaper, and in very many cases they have been followed up by most useful letters in The Times.

The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has not made any attack on the work done, and I am not trying in anything I say to suggest that I should have to guard against an inquest on the work of the National Fitness Council. Perhaps, however, before I refer to what took place in 1937, I should mention an important landmark, the Education Act of 1918. The very important Section 17 of that Act left local authorities to deal with the question exactly as the present National Youth Committee are asking the education authorities to do now. I refer to that only to show that the country at that time, realising that we were what is known as a C3 nation, was taking the matter in hand, but the unfortunate thing was that there was no development. I think I am right in saying that Section 17 of that Act was not used at all. Then we come to the time when there was set up the National Advisory Council. I think one can probably say that its failure came from its being framed on a too wide long-term policy with too little money behind it. I do not think one need go very much further than that to describe it.

The fact, which I think we can all see now, was that when it became possible for the people controlling the local organisations, or having anything to do with the population of this country over the school-leaving age, to put forward their requirements, there were so many needs that it was very hard to meet all the requests which were made. When you come to consider the number of villages each of which might want its playing field and its village hall, and, possibly, its swimming bath, which you might almost say it deserved and should have, it is quite obvious that the cost of providing the very necessary things of that nature made the whole scheme impossible. Under the Act I may say, figuratively, that the Council had to try and help all works of physical training from tossing the caber to throwing a dart. The Act was too widely drawn. Work had to cover such a large field from community centres down to quite small hostels to meet the needs of the cyclists and the hikers. Moreover, the Council had to help in all kinds of team games from football to other perhaps more individual sports like swimming and golf.

The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, suggested that there was a fog as to what has happened. Perhaps the best thing to say now in reply to that is that the Board of Education dismissed all the staffs set up in London and the staffs of all the committees throughout the country on the outbreak of war, and, therefore, from that moment the work of the National Physical Training Council ceased. I would like to say that the money spent during the time that work was going on, perhaps round about £1,000,000, has not been wasted. In all directions I have heard of the infinite pleasure and value that resulted from what we had given in the way of providing swimming baths, playing fields, community centres, village halls, gymnasiums and camp sites, etc. If only the war had not intervened the work of the area committees would have enabled me to tell my noble friend Lord Samuel what facilities there were in this country, but, most unfortunately, at the time the National Fitness Council was closed down such figures were not available. It is a disappointment to me that that is the case, because I always thought that we might make a mark in the history of this country by having a complete survey and getting out a kind of Domesday Book of Sport.

Shortly after the closing down of the National Fitness Council the Board of Education set up what is called the National Youth Committee. I think there is very little that one can say in regard to the National Youth Committee. They get local authorities for higher education to set up committees representative of all the different branches of sport and other matters affecting the welfare of young people. The main basis of their policy is an instruction to foster the work which is now so splendidly going on throughout the country as a result of the efforts of the different voluntary organisations. It seems to be an absolutely unanimous opinion that none of the recognised voluntary organisations should be shut down, or that their work should be curtailed in any way. The general aim is the social and physical welfare of youth. I think that, knowing how slowly things work in this country, one should feel pleased that the Board of Education have agreed that this new welfare work must take its place as a recognised province of education alongside elementary, secondary and further education.

I hope this policy is going to lead to a useful conclusion. I am sure it will in very many directions, but it is a policy where results must be slow, and made slow mainly, as I think, by lack of finance. I would like to read to your Lordships what was stated in a White Paper on Physical Training and Recreation in 1937 as being the Government opinion when the National Fitness Council was called into being. It was then stated: …the funds available from all sources are insufficient to cover the ground as fully as is needed. The calls made on the resources of local authorities in order to carry out the various duties with which they are charged make it difficult for them, particularly in some areas, to exercise the powers to which reference has been made above to any but a very limited extent. As regards voluntary organisations, while they are making an admirable contribution to the promotion of physical welfare of young people, it has to be remembered not only that the incidence and extent of the facilities which they provide vary greatly as between one district and another, but also that their development is often hindered by a shortage of funds, particularly in the poorer areas where the need of physical improvement is frequently greatest. I feel that, if that was the considered opinion at that time, all the more so must that be the opinion now.

It does make one feel rather doubtful whether those organisations, which one would wish to see helped by this new move, are going to get very much help. It is true that the local education authorities are able to get a 50 per cent. grant, but if 50 per cent. has to be found in the localities it does seem to me that in many places they will be faced with very great difficulties. I know that the Committee consider that the voluntary organisations are going to benefit because they expect the local education authorities to give certain advantages. If I may, I will quote four of them: Firstly, the free use, or at any rate the use at a reduced charge, of school premises; secondly, the use of their playing fields on favourable terms; thirdly, special concessions in their evening institutes; and fourthly, the supply of part-time instructors in physical training craftwork and other things. But I very much doubt, taking one example only—the institutions in which I am most interested, boys' clubs—whether they are really going to get much help, or at any rate sufficient help to induce people to open new clubs for boys or even to prevent certain clubs for boys being closed down.

I have said already that I feel that the Board of Education cater very well for the children at school, but then we come to the very difficult period from school-leaving age up to the age of twenty. Under the Military Training Act young people at the latter age, as well as those older, are getting admirable physical training and other forms of exercise through their military duties. I want a little later to come to the question how best to give to these young people some chance of some healthy form of recreation. The question of leadership has been mentioned, and that of course is a very acute question. I think it is only right in that connection to refer to the Physical Training College which was to have been set up by the Board of Education under the National Fitness Act. I would like so say that it was not for the National Fitness Council to set up that College, but certain members of the Council were asked to help in finding a site. It was a few months before the Office of Works could supply information about certain possible sites, and therefore I regret to say it was several months before a suitable site could be found. When I say "suitable site," I mean a site which was in all ways up to the standard one would expect a country such as ours to have and on which something like half a million of money was going to be spent. The site was found within about six months, but owing to the difficulty of purchase the Office of Works was very slow in getting that sight bought. I am sorry to say that the Board of Education, who had prepared a very special plan for this College, found just at the time they wished to bring it into being that the Treasury would not allow such a large expenditure of money. Therefore the matter was put back once again. There was great delay. Eventually there would have been a very nice reduced scheme adopted, but difficulties occurred last summer before the war, and not even the foundation stone was laid.

It is no use now referring to this, but it is a pity, because it is quite obvious that one of the things we need to-day are instructors in physical training. The noble Viscount, Lord Hampden, referred to the Central Council for Recreative Physical Training, and I would like to join those who have congratulated that body on the very good practical work which they have been doing for some time. There are all sorts of bodies functioning even to-day. It is not a fact that everything connected with this work has closed down. The National Playing Fields Association are giving good service to-day and so are the National Council of Social Service. I think I ought to refer also to such bodies as the Ling Association and the League of Health and Beauty. Undoubtedly a great deal of good work is being done still.

I have dealt rather widely with this question because the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, spread his net rather wide in altering the wording of his Motion. I would have preferred that he would have kept it to one question only, that of physical training proper. It seems to me that it is far easier now to get a plan developed for physical training only than any plan to help welfare generally. I think we might draw certain conclusions from what we have seen in other countries like Sweden, Denmark, in Czechoslovakia that was, and also in Germany, although I quite agree that we would not wish entirely to follow the German plan. Undoubtedly something ought to be done now to improve the physique generally of the younger generation after they leave school. Boys sent to the well-known public schools get physical training and games; after all these years we all admit that a great deal of good has come from that line, and it seems all wrong that those who send their sons to the Government schools should not have the same benefit.

It is difficult at the present time, perhaps, to suggest what the best scheme would be. I have had leanings all along towards something being done in a compulsory way. I have thought myself that it was difficult to get any compulsory order adopted in this country at once. It seemed to me that in war-time it might be very difficult owing to the difficulty of getting facilities and the necessary leaders and physical training instructors. It is, however, possible that something of this nature might be adopted, and I should like to support those who wish to see this question looked into somewhat further. Another way in which we could have met the question would have been to do what was suggested some years back: to extend the school-leaving age. That, of course, is quite impossible during the war, but we might be able to adopt it afterwards. The third course I hoped might have been taken ere now is what I might call by suggestion. The idea of it is to try to make some form of physical training so attractive that you get large bodies of boys to come in and take it up with the idea of getting a certificate or some order of merit or possibly a badge for their work.

I hope I am not being discourteous or disloyal to the National Youth Committee, of which I am a member. I have tried to bring this matter forward by getting a sub-committee set up to look into the whole question of improving the physical condition of boys after the school-leaving age. I am told in the first place that I am living in a different world and that these things cannot be tackled during war-time. I am also told that, even if it is a good move, the necessary staff cannot in any case be spared in war-time. I quite see that if the work goes on as planned now, much good will come of it; and I can see a very great opportunity after the war is over of getting on with the general physical training of the young people. We must pay tribute to the work of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who have splendid physical training services, and in the large extension of our Army the extension of the physical training instruction has been immense. We should not be discouraged from expecting at any rate a great improvement in physical training generally in the years to come. Once again I should like to thank the noble Viscount for raising this question in your Lordships' House. It is one of great urgency and of vital national importance, and if he can help me and others to get a move on and get something practical done, I shall be most grateful. I am sure the country will be most willing to follow any lead which is given. The main object, as I see it, is to try to improve the health, and that would include also the character, of the rising generation.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, there are few questions of more importance than the physical fitness of our young people, who form such a great national asset, especially in time of war. The problem of the physical fitness of boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen is no new problem. Every year some half a million boys and girls leave the elementary schools, where they have been enjoying a carefully-planned scheme of physical education, usually including games and swimming. This comes to an end when they leave school, and they then often have little encouragement to pursue physical fitness, and few facilities for keeping fit. The war has thrown this problem into relief. There is now a clear-cut interval between leaving school and joining the Army, when physical training begins again. We have therefore more concrete evidence of the deterioration which comes about through the lack of stimulus and facilities during the years from fourteen to twenty, the age at which men are now being called up. Too much emphasis should not be placed on this deterioration. In fact, the results of medical boards for the Army in the present war are striking testimony to the beneficial results of improved physical training in the last twenty years.

Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that deterioration does exist. The problem of the gap from fourteen to eighteen would have been solved years ago had the country, after the last war, had the foresight, courage and energy to put into force the Day Continuation School Section of Mr. Fisher's great Education Act. That would have secured to all boys and girls up to eighteen a definite measure of physical training, as specified in that Act. We are now faced with the results of past neglect, and your Lordships will realise that it is not easy in the middle of a war to repair the omissions of many years of peace. But this does not mean that nothing has been done. In 1937 the Government launched a National Fitness Scheme, referred to by Lord Aberdare, the objects of which as defined in the White Paper were "to create in the public mind a realisation of the value of physical fitness for its own sake, and to provide facilities sufficiently attractive to make an effective appeal to the people of the country." By 1939 that scheme had made considerable progress in achieving its aims. Much public interest had been aroused. Facilities had been greatly increased, and a National College of Physical Training, planned by a Committee; of which Lord Dawson was Chairman, was on the point of being built.

Just before the war, proposals were being considered for concentrating effort on the needs of youth. The scheme proposed would have made full use of the local education authorities and voluntary organisations, and would have included a proficiency badge scheme, details of which have already been worked out. On the outbreak of war these plans had, of course, to be modified. Voluntary organisations found their premises closed down and their incomes reduced. It was not so much a question of new expansion as of immediate action for maintaining existing facilities. The National Youth Committee was set up within a month of the outbreak of the war and was successful in its immediate tasks. It went further, and caused the setting up of local youth committees by local education authorities throughout the country. These local committees, of which there are now about 140, are already at work or getting to work, and plans for expanding social and recreative facilities for youth are being pressed forward with financial assistance from both local and national funds.

Quite recently there has been a further development. The Minister of Labour and National Service has set up an organisation for dealing with the welfare of factory employees in their leisure time; and so for the first time the local education authorities have the prospect of getting detailed knowledge of the location, the needs and the opportunities for appropriate activity of the employed youths of the nation. The Board of Education and the National Youth Committee have been asked by the Minister of Labour and National Service to do what is required in regard to social and physical training for young employees in factories, and they are about to issue a circular to all local education authorities for higher education drawing attention to the new responsibilities which will fall on them and on local youth committees. The Board will follow this up by getting a survey of those areas in which there has been a large influx of young industrial workers and they will then take the question up with the authorities concerned.

In general it may be said that, working in close co-operation with the local education authorities and voluntary bodies, we are in a fair way to secure a substantial increase in the provision of facilities; but, even so, we shall admittedly still be far from our goal. There are approximately three million boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen in England and Wales. Of these, rather fewer than half a million, or one-sixth of the whole, are in full-time education; these half million pupils are receiving adequate physical education at school. Of the remaining two and a half million, rather less than half a million attend part-time classes provided by local education authorities, and a great many of these do get physical education, although the conditions are not by any means always satisfactory. There remain, therefore, upwards of two million boys and girls to be dealt with in any national scheme of physical training. The problem of finding instructors and premises for this very large number would be a serious one. Moreover, at a time when employment in factories is at its maximum effort, it would not be possible to release the boys or girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen at stated times during working hours without dislocating the factory organisation. In these circumstances, it is difficult to see how any compulsory scheme of training, even if it were desirable, could work effectively. I am not sure how far any measure of compulsion in this sphere and at that age would be universally approved. A State-controlled and regimented system, however well devised, would easily lend itself to misinterpretation, and might jeopardise any general acceptance of some more comprehensive training of our young people.

At the same time, we clearly cannot ignore the need for stimulating the enthusiasm of those young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, and of harnessing it in some way to the national effort. The encouragement given through the Youth movement during the last nine months has already resulted in a considerable increase in the membership of the clubs and other youth organisations; but it is still true to say that considerably less than half of the young people are getting any regular physical recreation. I noted with particular interest the suggestion put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson, for some unified direction of physical training, through co-operation between the Board of Education and the War Office, to cover the whole age-range from fifteen to twenty. I am sure that my right honourable friends the President of the Board of Education and the Secretary of State for War will take note of Lord Dawson's suggestion and will wish to consider how far it may be possible to secure any extension of physical training on the lines that he has in mind.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke of the problem of malnutrition—a very serious question. This is not the moment to go into it at length, but I should like to give your Lordships a few figures of the distribution of milk to school children. On March 1 last two million children out of the four million in the schools were receiving milk free or at a reduced cost. The reduced cost is one shilling per gallon, as compared with a retail price of two shillings and eightpence. Some 9 per cent. of all children in the schools are getting milk free of all charge. Meals are given where necessary. The Board have the whole question of nutrition in the schools under active consideration, and in the next week or so a full review of the situation may be expected, with suggestions for better meals and the provision of milk for the duration of the war.

In conclusion, there are three factors which increase the numbers of young people getting regular training and recreation. In the first place, owing to the new arrangements with the Ministry of Labour which I have just mentioned, we shall for the first time be brought into direct personal contact with a large number of boys and girls in factories who are not now associated with any of our youth organisations, and we shall be able to make an appeal direct to them and see that adequate facilities are provided for them. In the second place, all the large voluntary organisations have agreed, as a special war-time emergency measure, to open their doors to all comers without any kind of test or conditions. The opportunities thus offered will enable young people of all kinds to attend classes in physical training, first aid, and a number of other subjects more or less connected with the cause of national service. In the third place, there has in the last month been launched by the Central Council of Recreative Physical Training and the Football Association the scheme to which the noble Viscount, Lord Hampden, referred, of physical training for boys and men from sixteen upwards in preparation for national service. This scheme has the full support of the Board of Education and the War Office. The latter Department have lent the services of a number of Army physical training instructors. The number of centres opened since June 22, when the scheme was launched, is 140, and the number is steadily growing.

I think that this debate has served a useful purpose in directing public attention to what is undoubtedly one of the urgent needs of the country. We all admit the problem, although we may differ as to the best means of solving it. I can assure your Lordships that the Government are ready to consider any practical suggestions which may be put before them for extending and increasing their efforts.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me to express to the noble Lord who has just spoken three-fold congratulations. First, I congratulate him on the fact that he has delivered what I understand is his maiden speech in this House, which is always an occasion for rejoicing and for welcome, however belated it may be. Secondly, I congratulate him on the fact that it has been delivered from the Front Bench on his accession to office in the Government, on which the whole House would wish to congratulate him, and particularly those of us who sit on these Benches, which are his normal location. Thirdly, I congratulate him on having given us a comprehensive and very interesting speech on the subject which has been before the House to-day. I cannot say that that speech has been wholly satisfactory in its substance. Speeches from that Bench at the end of a debate on a private member's Motion never are; but it has been more satisfactory, perhaps, than most.

He has gone some way to endeavour to answer the question which I put, and which was emphasized with great force by my noble friend Lord Mottistone, as to what is to be done for the 60 per cent. of the young people between the ages of fourteen and twenty who are at present untouched by all the various movements which are intended to cater for their physical training and recreation. He has mentioned various ways in which some progress is likely to be made in coping with that immense task, and I hope that the Board of Education, under an energetic Minister, and its staff, with the directors of education and the local authorities throughout the country, will practise the noble art of getting things done. The ability to get things done is the highest quality that a Minister or official can possess, and it does not universally attach to all those who occupy those positions. But I trust that in this special matter we may find, in spite of war conditions and all the difficulties of the present time, that a certain number of things may in fact be got done. We have had, I think all noble Lords who have spoken will agree, a useful debate. The Motion I put on the Paper has served its purpose in promoting that debate and eliciting the reply that we have had, and I now beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw it.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before seven o'clock.