§ 2.45 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS rose to call attention to British Sport and to the work of the Sports Council; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I noticed the other day in reference to this debate an item in the Press which suggested, raising a kind of eyebrow, that it was a little irresponsible for the House of Lords to be mounting a debate on sport when the country was faced with such urgent economic problems. I wish to begin by saying that I make no apology for putting down this Motion to-day. We have discussed the question of work a great deal lately. We might even say that Parliament has discussed it ad nauseam and become obsessed with it, and it seems to me that it will do no great harm to take an afternoon off and discuss the subject of what to do when we are not working. In fact I think it might even do some good. I know that it is unpopular, heretical and rank bad form to mention this sort of thing in public, and especially in the presence of Ministers, but I do not believe that the sole end and purpose of life is work or balancing payments. I do not believe in work for its own sake. There is—if your Lordships will forgive the use of a strange un-Parliamentary and rather forgotten expression—the ques-of the enjoyment of life. I believe that this happens to be a rather important question, if not the most important question of all.
§ Long before man invented the wheel he invented the ball, and he has been 1139 hitting, kicking, throwing and catching it—and cursing it—ever since. As the wheel took over and society became more mechanised, man recognised that the ball, be it large, small, round or oval in shape, was more than ever important to him; and with the fiendish ingenuity of which only the human species is capable he devised devilish games with incomprehensible rules as a kind of relaxation from the tasks that the wheel and all that flowed from it imposed upon him. Seriously, my Lords, it provides a balance. It puts work in proper perspective; it confirms that life is something to be enjoyed and that work is only a means, an important means, for that enjoyment. Man long ago learned (and it is something we ought to remember in these days when we are all talking about economic crises) that work and recreation are two sides of the same coin, and that the work goes better to the extent that man enjoys his leisure and spends it usefully in enjoying himself.
§ I do not want to make any exaggerated claims to-day about character-building sport and the development of sportsmanship and the idea of fair play and so on, though there may be something in it. Sport is simply and clearly important because it touches the lives and welfare of millions of people. It may appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to know that it is very cheap. It uses up no imports, or very few. I pay £5 a year to be a member of a badminton club. I get about four hours badminton a week out of that, which I suppose works out at something like 1s. 6d. for four hours. I challenge anybody to find any entertainment cheaper than that. The only import involved is, I think, a few feathers from Czechoslovakia which are used in making the shuttlecocks. Sport is something that does not use up imports and does not help people to go on a spending spree. In fact, it must help the country if one looks at it in the plain economic sense.
Sport, my Lords, coming down to it a little more closely, is a wide and complex subject. My dictionary puts it on a very wide plain indeed. The definition it gives is:
To play, to frolic, to make merry, to practise field diversions, to deviate from the normal.
If we were to follow that exactly, we might have a very wide-ranging debate, even a controversial one; and we might go a long way from sport. I have been involved in most of those activities at one time or other in my life, but this afternoon I do not intend to cover that kind of territory.
§ My Lords, there are over 80 sports being regularly practised in this country and thousands of organisations have written to me and sent me material for this debate. I am very grateful to them all, and regret, if only for a time, that I shall have to confine myself in these opening remarks to a few generalisations and comments about some of the problems as I see them. I am glad to have a very strong team following me. As your Lordships can see from the Order Paper, we have a strong line-up. The batting is very strong and we are very lucky to have two such wicket-keepers as my noble friend the Leader of the House, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend Lady Phillips, both of whom in past debates have shown themselves very good at catching and stumping.
§ The strength of sport in Britain has always been that it is based on voluntary organisations and voluntary effort. Thousands of people devote their leisure hours to running the hundreds of organisations that cater for sport, to arranging matches, meetings and tournaments, to organising the committees and the conferences and to raising finance. Without this great enthusiasm, sport would be in a poor way. Whatever happens in sport development, I believe that this vital principle of voluntary effort must be maintained and developed. In my opinion it is the root. It is untidy. It often duplicates itself. There are all kinds of petty jealousies, and small private empires get built, but, by and large, we ought to live with it, because it is a source of great strength.
§ But in the last few years we have had something of a new situation with regard to leisure. It does not mean, because we believe in the voluntary system, that it is perfect or that it cannot be helped. To give your Lordships one example, the voluntary system so far has provided only two world-class swimming baths a thousand in this country. This is one of the problems that arises when there 1141 is the untidy voluntary method of organising sport. In the last 25 years we have seen the development of many greater problems, problems which the voluntary sports organisations may not be able to grapple with unless they are given support.
§ Let me give your Lordships two examples of the kind of development I mean. First, there is the tremendous increase in the demand for sports facilities and opportunities. Increased leisure, full employment and wider opportunities for sport at school have helped to create this demand. The Director of the Sports Council, Mr. Walter Winterbottom, recently gave some figures which will give your Lordships an idea of this. In 1939. in England and Wales, there were 1,312 badminton clubs. By 1967 they had more than doubled, to nearly 3,000. Sales of badminton equipment have gone up by over 40 per cent. in the last ten years. In 1950, in the old L.C.C. area, there were only six classes giving coaching in this sport. By 1967 there were 609—an increase of over 600. It is interesting to note that badminton is one of those sports that can be played very simply, usually in an unfurnished church hall, and little in the way of equipment and facilities are required. Above all, badminton players are not at the mercy of the English weather.
§ The number of gliding clubs has more than doubled since the war. Clubs for swimming, golf and squash have also increased dramatically. The number of squash clubs, for instance, has doubled in the last 20 years. Sales of golf equipment are increasing. The use of municipal clubs is more than ever in evidence. The Golf Development Council in this respect has been doing tremendous work. But perhaps the most exciting increase has been in what I would describe as outdoor adventure sports—sailing, climbing, pot-holing and surfing. In fact, anything which has an element of danger in it seems to be appealing more and more to young people. It seems that they find here the challenge that our mechanised society cannot give them elsewhere. A small pilot scheme for lifeguards and cliff rescues was started by Mr. Charles Thomson, Director of Activities at the Atlantic College and this has been such a success that it has 1142 mushroomed into a national movement, and needs national backing.
§ This increase in the demand for sport and sports facilities is one aspect of the problem facing the voluntary organisations. The other is the increasing cost of facilities and of national and international competitions. The cost of acquiring land and of putting up an adequate building with proper facilities has grown out of all proportion to the resources of the voluntary organisations. Even with help from the various trusts and from first-rate bodies like the National Playing Fields Association, which does so much good work, the need cannot always be met. In international events, the picture is similar. It costs, for example, a small fortune to send our Olympic team to Mexico or Tokyo and, by a miracle, the British Olympic Association raises a fortune to do just that. But it is becoming increasingly difficult, and as other countries get more sport conscious the number of international fixtures increases. To give one example of this, I may say that the British Amateur Athletic Board used to be involved in one fixture overseas every four years, apart from internationals; now they have something like 11 in every four years.
§ It was because of these problems that various Governments in the past 10 to 15 years recognised their responsibility and gave certain grants for specific needs to the voluntary organisations. In 1964, when the Labour Government was elected to power, it was decided that this ought to be taken a step further and a Minister with special responsibility for sport was appointed. Since the Prime Minister nowadays gets the blame for everything else, let us give him a little credit here. In appointing Denis Howell, he made a first-rate choice. Mr. Howell has tackled the job with tremendous energy and zest. Obviously he enjoys the job, and as a former football referee he is used to dodging the tackle of both spectators and players.
§ One of the Minister's first tasks was to set up the National Sports Council, out of which has arisen nine regional sports councils. The job of this Council is to advise the Government on all aspects of amateur sports and its needs. I do not intend to go into details with regard to the activities of the Sports 1143 Council, because my noble friend Lady Burton is going to speak in the debate and I am hoping that she, as a member of the Council and Chairman of its international Committee, will be dealing in more detail with some of its work and problems. I only wish to make this comment. The Sports Council is clearly bringing more cohesion into the organisation of sport. It is beginning to pinpoint the various needs and get some degree of planning into the organisation of sport. As a measure of its success, I would point out that even in these difficult years the grants which have been given to sports' organisations for coaching and administration have risen since 1964 from £381,000 to over double this year—£652,000. This is still "peanuts", but it is something.
§ In my opinion, there is still a central weakness. The Sports Council is an advisory body with no finance of its own. We have not only the peculiar situation that its offices are staffed by the officials of the Central Council for Physical Recreation and Mr. Walter Winter-bottom is both Director of the Sports Council and Director of the Central Council, but the money paid to sport is handed out in dribs and drabs from Government Departments and the Treasury for specific purposes. I am bound to say that this seems a peculiarly ham-fisted way of going about things, even in an age when ham-fistedness is the norm rather than the exception. It seems to me like forming a cricket team and then denying them a bat or a ball. The Arts Council, which is a similar sort of body of experts, is given a block grant each year, which it distributes according to its own assessment of needs. Why cannot a similar arrangement be made for the Sports Council? Why does every application for finance have to be dealt with on a separate basis and go through the hands of three or four Ministers before it is actually granted? The Government have been extremely generous and very few applications have been turned down, but this is an unnecessary procedure and prevents the Sports Council from doing the forward planning it ought to be able to do.
§ Moreover, a block grant would ensure that there could be absolutely no political pressure or political involvement with 1144 regard to these grants. It would free the Treasury and the other Ministries from the need to vet the various claims and sit in judgment on them. I know that there are difficulties, but I should not think that it is beyond the wit of man to overcome these and support the Sports Council on an equal footing with the Arts Council. There seems to be no logic in a situation in which we are prepared to allow one Council to distribute money on our behalf to people who want to go to the theatre and enjoy their leisure in that way, and yet to deny another Council, of an equal standing, an equal right because they deal with sport. I am not here today making an appeal for more money, although the Council could do with it; but I am asking for a more rational way of using what is already given.
§ While I am speaking of money I should like to raise two small points. I feel that, while the Government are giving with one hand, in relation to the small grants they give, they are seriously harming some sports clubs with the selective employment tax, which is hitting small clubs with one or two grounds very hard indeed. And the gambling tax is almost putting some clubs out of business. I belong to a tennis club where we used to get a considerable income from a couple of fruit machines, but now it is necessary to put in about 500 sixpences for the Government before the club gets anything out of it. This seems to me to be a bit greedy and a bit tight-fisted on the part of the Government. I would suggest that this matter, at least, should be considered.
§ I want now to turn to the problem of what the Wolfenden Committee on Sport described as the "gap". The "gap", I may say, is in my opinion a modest description; I would describe it rather as a yawning gulf. What the Wolfenden Committee were trying to get at was the fact that when young people leave school at 15 or 16—the early school-leavers—there is little or no effort to cater for their needs in sport; nor, indeed, in most other things, in my experience. Most schools have a wide variety of opportunities and facilities, in the way of pitches and halls, and when the boys go on to higher education they have fantastic sports facilities, particularly at universities and technical colleges. But the moment a boy of 15 or 16 leaves school 1145 he finds; in most cases, that these facilities are closed to him, and there are no others to take their place. Some of the youngsters may find their way into clubs or be helped by the Youth Service, but this is a tiny minority. Even when they find a club, the age difference makes it very difficult for them to fit in. This group of young people is already an underprivileged majority, and with the postponement of the school-leaving age they are the ones to be hit again.
§ I should like to see a national recreational service built up based on the schools and their facilities and other public facilities. This service would start to operate before boys and girls left school, and they would form teams and clubs from all children at school in the year or so before they left—clubs which could retain an identity after these young people had left school. Where schools facilities were fully used or inadequate, the national recreational service would help to find others. I would suggest that this is one of the jobs that should be urgently tackled by the Sports Council and its regional sports committees.
§ It might be argued that this is the job of the Youth Service, and Wolfenden did recommend some such development. But little has been done, because the Youth Service is still the cinderella of the services, and its resources and staffing are hopelessly and totally inadequate. I must have intervened and spoken and heard other noble Lords speak in debates on youth or associated with youth many times in the last four or five years. We keep paying lip service to these young school-leavers. I want to repeat again and again that these are the underprivileged majority. I am beginning to wonder whether there is anything that can be said in this House or anywhere else that will stir the conscience of our legislators. When are they going to do something about this problem? These young people are inarticulate and under-organised. They cannot speak up for themselves. They do not have half the facilities that more fortunate young people have who go on to higher education. Yet when they get bored and start smashing up shops or railway carriages we are the first to turn round, quite rightly, and accuse them of being vandals. But we created this problem, and we keep on creating it year in and year out. As a matter of common justice, 1146 equality and equity something must be done to fill this gap. We must stop talking and do something about it.
§ This links with another matter on which I feel strongly, and that is the question of coaching and the proper use of facilities. We need more facilities generally—running tracks, swimming baths and so on. We are not too badly off in many ways for facilities, but we should use much more wisely the facilities that we have at the moment. I sometimes go through a park in a London borough where there are nine quite well laid out hard tennis courts. The only people I have even seen playing on these courts are two youngsters, very often in shoes and trousers, playing with broken old rackets, knocking a ball about. I spoke to one of the local councillors and he said: "We have provided the facilities; what more should we do?" I said: "Do you put up schools and let children go there without teachers? "He had to reply, "No". It seems to me that a local council is doing only one half of its job if it provides excellent facilities but makes no arrangements to see that the facilities are properly used.
§ There is a shortage of coaches. But the Sports Council are tackling this, and I am sure that many people of reasonable ability in adult clubs could be persuaded to come forward and help with this work. They could be on duty coaching in the summer evenings, at weekends and during school holidays. I should also like to ask for a little more imagination in regard to facilities. In many cases, for children and young people, and even adults, quite frankly, so far as tennis and many other ball games are concerned, a wall would be a much more useful proposition than half a dozen courts. I understand that Lew Hoad learned his profession by banging a tennis ball against a brick wall somewhere in Sydney. I believe that if we were to erect in the parks long tennis walls against which kids could bang a ball, without the boredom of having somebody on the other side of the net who cannot hit it back to them, they would not only enjoy themselves but would learn more about tennis and eventually graduate to a proper court. That is one simple thing. There are many other ways in which a little thought could provide simple facilities.1147
§ Then there is the question of the British weather. We British are a very curious people. We always grumble about our weather, but where sports and plumbing are concerned, we refuse to accept that it exists or that it can ever be bad. It is a fact we have lived with for many hundreds of years that for certains months of the year we cannot play certain games because it gets too wet or too dark. If you go to Australia, you find hundreds of tennis courts with floodlights, and people playing on them until 10 or 11 o'clock, or even until midnight. They are luckier with their weather than we are, but there are still long periods in the autumn when our hard all-weather tennis courts could be used if they were floodlit. But how many do you see? Very few. You could immensely extend a sporting facility of that description by using floodlights.
§ Why are we so slow about putting up simple under-cover playing areas on the Dutch barn principle—something which Wolfenden were arguing for, which the Sports Council are now backing and which seems to me to be absolutely essential, particularly to a large school where we very often have splendid playing fields and other facilities which cannot be used, and the kids are idle so far as sport is concerned because there is only a gymnasium in which they can do restricted sport? It is reasonably easy to put up one of these Dutch barn structures, a simple building, in which five-a-side and seven-a-side and other games can be played.
§ I have already mentioned the variety of organisations in sport, and I believe that one of the reasons why we tend to move slowly in this area is that there is a proliferation of managing bodies, governing bodies, councils and so on, with a number of petty jealousies and a certain amount of "empire building". I do not think there is very much the Government can do about this, except perhaps that the Sports Council might appoint a "Minister of Technology" in this field whose main job would be the amalgamation of various clubs and the breaking down of some of these petty differences, for very often facilities are wasted or are not used fully because two organisations just will not get together and share a common facility, or get together to build a common facility.1148
§ In the area where I live there are at the moment three appeals for finance from the public: one for a squash court, one for a badminton hall and one for a small sports centre, and each appeal is absolutely separate. It would clearly be much more sensible if these organisations were to get together and make one complex and one appeal. This is where I welcome very much the initiative of the Sports Council in advocating the setting up of local sports advisory councils, because I think this has worked well in the arts, where over past years we have developed a whole network of local arts councils. It would clearly be to the advantage of all sportsmen and sports organisations if they had local sports councils which could advise on the needs of sport in the locality and speak for all sportsmen and sports organisations—in other words, if we had a little more co-operation at least on the committee stage, and kept the rivalry for the actual field of play.
§ My Lords, I have dealt so far, very briefly and in a very rough way, with some of the problems I see in amateur sport. I do not propose to say much about professional sport, because, on the whole, it can take care of itself. But there is this to be said, I think. The professional represents the pinnacle. It is the example of his skill which inspires lesser players and which gives entertainment and pleasure to millions; and especially is this so, perhaps, in soccer and the team games. There has recently been a great public outcry about hooliganism at football matches and bad behaviour on the field of play. The British Press and public are never slow to give advice, and there have been dozen of suggestions as to how to deal with hooligans, ranging from flogging and imprisonment to forcing them to scrub out the local police station. They even appointed a committee of psychiatrists and other learned people to study the question, and only recently they came up with a report. I read their comments, and from my point of view they shed about as much light on the subject as would a candle in the Albert Hall if all the lights fused.
§ I am sure that there is not one answer to this problem, and it must be approached in different ways. One of the fundamental things, which I want to repeat, and which I feel strongly about, 1149 is the question of these children when they leave school at fifteen: it is the problem of the under-privileged majority. But a point is reached when you have to stop talking about why it happens and do certain simple things, which may not cure the problem but which may help. I am sure it is right that the police and magistrates should take a tougher line and stiffer punishments should be imposed, because this might deter some. But I think the governing bodies and the clubs in soccer might take a deeper look at the changing patterns of the game, because this may also have an effect on spectator behaviour.
§ The game is faster now, and much more is at stake for the players and clubs than ever before. So can we be sure that what was right for the game twenty or thirty years ago is still right to-day? Is the standard of refereeing adequate to-day? Is it right to have purely amateur referees? Is the method of refereeing adequate? Would it not be better, perhaps, to have two referees for the faster game? I think that this is the sort of question that the Football Association and the Football League ought to consider. At the same time, I think the clubs certainly might tighten up on the discipline of their players on the field of play itself.
§ I was very much impressed in watching the recent rugby international when Colin Meads, the All-Black was sent off. What impressed me as the important thing was that he walked; there was no jostling of the referee or long-drawn-out protests. The decision was accepted and he walked off. I believe that all soccer clubs should insist that their players obey and accept a referee's ruling without question, and if they do not they should be subject to discipline by the club itself. I know that the Professional Footballers' Association, which has done so much good work for players, supports that view and feels that, although players are often wrongly blamed for what are sometimes the excesses and mistakes of referees, more could be done at club level. If we cooled the temperature on the field, we might cool it a little more on the terraces. As I said, I do not pretend that this is the whole answer, but I am sure it would help.
§ I come to my final point, my Lords, which concerns something rather apt to 1150 your Lordships in this particular week, and that is the role that television can play in helping sport. It must be obvious that it does a good deal already, but it could do more. My own feeling is that it ought to put emphasis on a wider range of sports and cater for wider tastes. It could do much more than it does at present to feature regional and local sport, and to present training and coaching programmes—and over a wider area of sport. I should like to see, for example, national competitions in various of the lesser-known sports sponsored by television companies and by the B.B.C.
§ One suggestion, for example, that has been made in relation to athletics, which is going through a difficult period financially and which is finding that attendances at meetings are falling away, is that television could sponsor a knockout athletic competition with matches in all the regions, with teams of up to 18 people competing in seven selected athletic events; the winners of these regional events would then compete nationally. It seems to me that this is the kind of idea—I have mentioned it only in broad outline—that could arouse competition again, would help clubs and schools, and could help athletics, too, and if carefully built up in the regions over a long period would eventually excite tremendous interest when eventually the finals were reached. I believe that television could teach the British Amateur Athletics Board and other governing bodies in other sports a little about showmanship and how to present public functions.
§ There is one other aspect of television coverage of sport that worries me, because it seems to go against the principles that were discussed some years ago when Independent Television was first set up. The main argument put forward then was that Independent Television would provide a competitive spur to the B.B.C.; and I believe that that is right. If one looks at the revolution that has taken place in news-casting in the last five or six years, which has been a direct result of Independent Television News, one sees what I mean. There has been a vast improvement in this area as a result of competition. But it seems to me absolutely wrong that one or other of the organisations should be in a position to move in and take a monopoly of certain 1151 sports events. This has happened to athletics in this country, and I think it is wrong. The B.B.C. have a long-term monopoly in this area. I am not going to criticise the B.B.C.'s presentation of these events, which I think on the whole has been excellent, but I think it is wrong in principle that they should have had for so many years, and Independent Television viewers should be denied, as it were, the opportunity of sharing in, these particular events. I think it is bad for athletics, bad for the B.B.C., and bad for the public.
§ It is no accident that soccer, which has consistently refused to allow one side or the other any exclusive rights, is not suffering any loss of spectators, while amateur athletics has dropped away badly. We must, and ought to, have competition. I agree that organisations must have contracts so that they know where they are going, but they ought to be short-term contracts, and it cannot be bad for the sport if two organisations are to compete for the right to present their functions in the best possible way. I should like to think the Government would step in and do something about this matter. I want to emphasise that I consider the B.B.C. has magnificent sports covering; it is merely that I believe it is wrong in principle that they should have this kind of monopoly.
§ My Lords, I do not want to go on any longer; I have taken longer than I should have wished, and even so I have only brushed this subject with my fingertips. I should like to stress once again that I have spoken as a layman with no financial interest in sport, but it is something about which I am a bit crazy; my wife regards me, in fact, as being a little "potty" in this respect.
§ I should not like to sit down without thanking those hundreds of sportsmen and players who have given me so much pleasure over the years—names which are magic to me, like Compton, Edrich, Cowdrey, Dexter, Greaves, Charlton, Rosewall and Hoad, Chataway, Pirie and Bannister. These are glorious names; they are names which have really made Britons proud all over the world, and which have done a great deal to enhance the dignity and respect of our country. They are the sort of people I admire from afar.1152
§ I am what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, once described as a "zonk" player. He told me that he goes on to a golf course and he simply "zonks". That is my category also. I "zonk" at badminton and tennis. I shall never get any better, but I enjoy every moment of it. That is where I came in, and that is the purpose of this debate. I think it might even be the purpose of something far deeper than that: that we are really here to enjoy ourselves. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I know that all your Lordships will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for introducing this Motion on sport this afternoon and for treating us to such an entertaining speech, as well as one full of knowledge and interesting ideas. He may be a "zonk" at playing games, but he is no "zonk" when it comes to talking about them, and in fact I think he enjoys an advantage this afternoon which none of the rest of us enjoys, in that I believe he has some experience of writing television scripts, though perhaps not performing in front of the cameras. Sport is considerably in his debt already, in that he introduced in your Lordships' House not so long ago the Sunday Entertainments Bill, in which he took a great deal of trouble to ensure that the interests of sport generally were well looked after, and I think we owe him a debt of gratitude for that.
Last week, in the course of The Government of Wales Bill, I called the Government pusillanimous, and the noble Lord the Leader of the House accused those of us who sit on these Benches of having introduced Party politics into a number of recent debates. I should like to say at the beginning of my remarks that I have no intention whatever of introducing any note of Party politics, and I think it would be most disastrous if they should ever creep into this subject. I should also like to say that in the field of sport I certainly do not consider that the Government are pusillanimous. In fact, such work as they have done in this field has been pretty good, considering the economic circumstances in which they have operated. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will be glad to know that I shall not even mention S.E.T., which has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Willis.
1153 Reading back over previous debates that we have had on this subject there runs through them all the familiar cry of "more money for sport". The fact is that sports generally have become more and more dependent on grants, both from national and from local government sources, for the provision of expensive facilities. At one time it would have been quite unthinkable that amateur sports bodies should look to the Government for help. In fact, any Government help was looked upon as gross interference. Now, all of us seek more money and we have even come to accept a Minister for Sport—another thought which was alien to our minds not so long ago. At the same time it seems illogical that there are immense sums of money involved in some sports, particularly of course professional sports, when we read of huge transfer fees and football pool prizes, and yet at the same time, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, we can provide ourselves with only two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
I must say I rather envy what I understand to be the position of the Italian Government, for they run Government-sponsored pools and the proceeds are used for amateur sport. It is important though, that where sports facilities can pay for themselves they should do so. I was struck the other day, on reading a speech made by Mr. Denis Howell in another place on Friday, January 19, in which he said that the income from the six squash courts at the National Recreation Centre at Crystal Palace was almost £8,000 in the year 1966–67. If my mathematics are correct, that is a return of some £1,300, from each court, and one court, I understand, costs just over £4,000. That is a return of some 33 per cent. on capital.
Of course, I realise that there are other things concerned with facilities, such as changing rooms and refreshment rooms, but it strikes me that there are many clubs, such as football clubs and swimming clubs, where these facilities exist already, and where it might well be an economic proposition to build squash courts. The noble Lord mentioned badminton, and I am sure that that is another sport that is self-financing. But while it has been generally accepted that sport requires Government assistance, I 1154 am not convinced in my own mind that we have arrived at the right relationship between the Government and amateur sports bodies.
I should like to recall to your Lordships, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, did, the Report of the Wolfenden Committee, on which I had the privilege of introducing a debate in this House seven years ago, in 1961. As the noble Lord reminded us, that Committee recommended the establishment of a Sports Development Council, independent of the Government and with its own finance. In that debate this proposition received general support from all parts of your Lordships' House. The speakers included the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, who made his maiden speech on that occasion, my noble friend Lord Luke and the noble Earl, Lord Longford. Although the Government at the time were unable to accept the proposal there was a good deal of support for it, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said:…we pledged ourselves in our Election Address to set up a Sports Council of Great Britain and to provide it, in the first instance, with £5 million."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15/2/61, col. 863]The Party opposite have kept their pledge to establish a Sports Council, although the present Council is very different from that envisaged in the Wolfenden Report. In the first place, the Minister of Sport is Chairman of the Council, and in the second place there is no £5 million.
That brings me to say a word, as the noble Lord did, on the relationship between the Sports Council and the Central Council of Physical Recreation. Before doing so may I declare an interest, in that I am on the executive of the Central Council of Physical Recreation. However in what I say I am not referring to them but am expressing purely my own personal opinion. When the Sports Council was first formed, the C.C.P.R. seconded its General Secretary, Mr. Walter Winterbottom, to be its first Director, and recently the position has been regularised and an agreement has been reached between the Minister and the Central Council, roughly under three headings.
In the first place, the Central Council will provide the Sports Council with certain agreed services in administrative, technical and research fields. Secondly, 1155 the Central Council will provide a secretariat for the Sports Council. Thirdly—and this is where I have some doubts—Mr. Walter Winterbottom and Mr. D. P. Molyneux will each wear two hats: Mr. Winterbottom, as Director of the Sports Council and General Secretary of the Central Council, and Mr. Molyneux as deputy Director of the Sports Council and a full-time member of the Central Council. On the face of it this seems to be perhaps a useful co-ordination of functions. But I am a bit concerned in that the Sports Council, being under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Sport, is, in a sense, a Government-sponsored body, whereas the Central Council is a voluntary body.
To take an example—and I should like to say that I have not talked to Mr. Winterbottom or anyone else about this; it is a purely personal opinion—I am quite sure that either the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, or the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, will have consulted the Sports Council about this debate and will have been briefed by Mr. Winterbottom. How is he to brief the Government spokesman in a debate like this in his capacity as Director of the Sports Council, and then, perhaps, were I to go to him, to brief me as a member of the Central Council who might have some criticism to make of the actions of the Government? This is a very difficult subject, and I personally believe that it might be better if the Minister were not the Chairman of the Sports Council. I should prefer to go back, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Willis, would, to the original Wolfenden recommendation and see the Sports Council independent of the Government and more in the relationship to it that the Arts Council is.
I should like to say a word about the regional sports councils, which I think are a real step forward, especially necessary at this moment. The present time of economic difficulty is one in which we cannot see much hope of increased grants, and therefore the two major requirements are, first, to make the best use of our existing facilities, and, secondly, to ensure that such money as is available for building new facilities is used to the best possible purpose. I am quite sure that the regional sports councils are going to be most valuable in 1156 achieving these two ends, first of all by making a thorough review of the facilities which exist at present, which has never been done before. This is a matter to which they are now turning their attention. I would pay a special tribute to them in the work they are doing, and particularly to the permanent staffs.
The regional sports councils are staffed by the previous secretaries of the Central Council in the regions, and these people are still doing the task that they carried out before, but they have added to their work the full responsibility for the administration of the regional sports councils and also of the regional standing conferences of sports associations. This involves them in an immense amount of extra work, not least of it paper work. If you imagine that a regional sports council may have some five subcommittees and some seven working parties to be serviced by the secretary, you realise that that is a pretty tough assignment, especially as the secretary obviously has at the same time to keep the Central Sports Council advised and has to pay a number of visits all over the region to see the facilities for himself. I hope, therefore, that every consideration will be given to the staffing of the regional sports councils. I am sure they have the most important work to do, and it would pay to be sure that they are properly staffed.
One of the necessary aims which I mentioned was making the fullest use of existing facilities. I should like to refer especially to a striking address given at the annual meeting of the Central Council of Physical Recreation by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, who took his seat to-day. I am very sorry that it is too soon for him to make his maiden speech, because his knowledge of making use of sports facilities, particularly in the industrial field, is unrivalled. He made a great contribution to that annual meeting and I wish he could have repeated it here to your Lordships to-day. His own firm at St. Helens has shown the way to bring industrial sports facilities into community use, and I feel quite sure that that example could well be followed throughout the country.
Also, we need to consider carefully making full use of the facilities that exist in schools, drill halls, racecourses, canals, reservoirs and similar types of facilities 1157 that exist. I know that the regional sports councils are working on those lines, and I think it equally important to see the development of local sports advisory councils on a more local basis than the regions. I hope that local sports advisory councils would exist at least in every county, made up of representatives of the local authority, the local education authority, industry, the youth service and the sports bodies themselves, so that not only is the best use made of the facilities that exist but in future planning full co-ordination will be ensured locally. Certainly the joint circular that was issued by the Department of Education and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1964 has begun to have an effect, and some interesting new work has started.
I would particularly mention one example which I think again is well worthy of following: the work at Bingham, where the Nottinghamshire County Council, representing the education authority, and the Bingham Rural District Council are co-operating to build in a comprehensive school a sports complex that will meet the needs not only of those who attend the school but of the adult community as well. The complex will contain a 25-metre swimming pool, a learner pool, a one-court sports hall, a gymnasium, a hard-porous floodlit playing area, changing rooms and provision for refreshment. The total cost is some £210,000, and the County Council are paying £80,000, representing the educational use of these facilities, and the Bingham Rural District Council £130,000. That seems to me the sort of co-operation that we need in planning new facilities, and I hope it will be followed throughout the country.
While I am talking of new facilities, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, or the noble Baroness whether they can give to us any information about the future of the sports centre at Cardiff? This is a facility that has been on the cards for a long time. It has been asked for and planned and it awaits Government grant to see the green light. It is rather tragic that a distinguished athlete such as Lynn Davies, who won a Gold Medal at Tokyo in 1964, in training to try to attain that Medal in Mexico has to cross the Severn Bridge to Bristol, because there is no covered all-weather run-up in 1158 South Wales. What we need is a sports centre.
Finally, I would echo what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, on the subject of the gap after school life. I think two comments are necessary: one is that I think it is a great tribute to the schools that they engender so much activity in sport at the schools. My own experience is with the Amateur Athletic Association in the Glamorgan schools, where the staff give up an immense amount of time out of their normal line of duty to encouraging athletics at weekends and to organising some of the championships that are run, first of all on a local basis and then nationally and finally internationally. They have a full range of athletic sports, but divided into three age groups, so the whole programme is multiplied by three. It is a tremendous feat of organisation and they do it tremendously well. I agree with the noble Lord that it is after that, when youngsters have left school, that there is liable to be a gap, and I hope that his words will find an echo among the people who run local sports clubs. There are a great many people who give up time to manage a club and perform the hundred and one tasks that are required behind the scenes. Those are the people of whom we need more.
I should like to mention something with which I am connected, the Torch Trophy Trust. This is a small concern at the moment, but we aim to encourage people at local club level to give their services in helping with the organisation of the club. We present with a miniature Olympic Torch those who have deserved well in various sports all over the country, to draw attention to their work. We are also making grants to them to enable them to improve their abilities by going on one or other of the many courses which are run specially by the Central Council of Physical Recreation. Like the noble Lord opposite, I believe that sport and recreation play a significant part in the health of the nation, not only in its physical fitness but in its whole psychological condition. I know that we have not the money that we should like to have, but I think that there is still plenty that we could be doing by co-operation and careful planning and in this field the Sports Council and the regional sports councils have a vital role to play.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, we are indeed indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for initiating to-day this debate on British sport, and in particular the work of the Sports Council. I shall follow him fairly closely, because I think it is inevitable that those of us who are close to sport are coming towards a consensus of opinion on the various problems with which sports clubs and governing bodies have to deal. And there are some points that I shall make, as he made them, because I think it is important that we should emphasise these points from all quarters of the House.
First of all, I have no doubt that the setting up of the Sports Council was a milestone in the history of sport. This is a non-Party occasion. I believe that people like Sir Edward Boyle and Mr. Quintin Hogg should be congratulated on the early work they did, in the same way that the Government should be congratulated on making the Sports Council a reality. We in this country have a long history of the development of our sports activities along independent lines with autonomous governing bodies. I think it is right that this should be maintained by the efforts of the many devoted voluntary workers who are engaged in the sport.
On the other hand, the Sports Council have been quick to recognise that many sports can flourish and expand only if an element of trained professional administration is introduced to help in the sport. In addition, they have recognised that there is quite a lot of work to be done in getting a better co-ordination of many of the sports in this country. The Sports Council have done an excellent job in discussing with the many governing bodies problems which those governing bodies have in their organisations, and in many cases the Sports Council have acted as the catalyst for new long-term thinking. The governing bodies have been asked, as we know, to put forward long-term plans to justify demands for capital grants and to establish a system of accounting for them. I think that all this is excellent. At last, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, we are getting proper surveys, proper appraisals which, by providing the facts about sport and recreation, identify the 1160 gaps which are then exposed and stimulate the new ideas that we need.
It is because such important work is now under way that I want to say to the Government that I hope they will not allow the economic circumstances of the nation at the present time to bring this work to a grinding halt. There is always the danger that local authorities will be the first to cut their allocation in this particular field. Of course, sport and recreation must accept a fair share of the economies which are inevitable in the next two years. But the main point is that the planning should not be halted; that the various important experiments which are under way, and which could set the pattern for future development, perhaps in other regions, should be allowed to continue, and perhaps some of the less costly schemes, amounting to a few thousand pounds, which can transform the facilities in a town, should be allowed to go ahead. I have in mind, in particular, what Lord Willis said about hard surface areas being floodlit for a few thousand pounds. This would make all the difference to the adult amenities of a town.
There are other areas in which the work of the Sports Council is of vital importance and, in my view, must not be checked. For example, one of the most important achievements in recent years has been the change in public opinion towards the dual use of educational facilities. I believe that far better results can be obtained if there is combined planning between the education departments and the local authorities, their architects and the regional sports councils at a quite early stage. One of the cases which has been quoted is that of an ordinary school gymnasium of about 2,800 square feet which would cost £25,000 and, by itself, could probably be suitable only for children. But by the addition of a similar contribution from the local authority it is possible to provide a purpose-built hall which can be used by the school and by the community at large.
A number of these projects are being considered. What is required in this country are concrete examples which can be seen and be shown to be successful, and I should hope that the scheme which has been referred to by the noble Lord, 1161 Lord Aberdare, at Bingham, in Nottinghamshire, will not suffer from the economic cuts, but will be allowed to go forward as an example of what might be achieved in better times by many other areas of the country.
There are other such projects all of which will be pioneering new educational and community plans. Indeed, the more one looks into sporting facilities in this country, the more one realises that the days of isolated facilities are going and that we are moving rapidly towards the provision of multi-sports, social and recreation centres catering for the needs of the differing governing bodies of sport and their members throughout the country. I think this may be one answer to the problem raised by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, that of having nobody to coach in these floodlit areas and on these hard-surface areas and tennis court areas in the towns. I believe that when we move to the multi-sports centre that problem will solve itself, because there will be there people interested in all sports, at all levels and of all proficiencies.
Having said that, my Lords, I want to turn to an aspect of sport on which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, also dwelt, something which is disturbing many of the governing bodies. I believe that there is a paradox here, because while the Government have shown themselves generous in helping governing bodies to provide new facilities, and have given them capital grants to do so, at the other end of the scale some of the Government policies are hitting sport very hard indeed. Nowhere is this clearer than in the application of the selective employment tax. This really is a serious matter for the governing bodies of sport and for clubs throughout the country.
The paradox is that we have a situation where new capital assets are being created, with all the latest devices in them, and they have to be taken care of by trained professionals. It would be madness to do without them, yet such people are subject to the full impact of S.E.T. Having put tens of thousands of pounds into the facilities themselves, you cannot just let them be handled by any child, schoolboy or even an untrained amateur. In my view, no clubs carry more people than they need. The people they need are mostly groundsmen, stewards and 1162 cleaners, and there is no point in trying to redeploy these people into other fields, which was the aim of the selective employment tax. In these circumstances, S.E.T. just becomes another burden of taxation on voluntary effort.
I am told that in golf—a game which I do not myself practise—there are 1,700 clubs. They are paying, on average, about £500 a year in S.E.T.—that means just under £1 million from one sport going back to the Government. I am told that gliding clubs pay about £53,000 a year in S.E.T. Many of us were in favour of putting a tax on gaming, but the noble Lord referred to the £75 penalty which has to be paid on each gaming machine by sports clubs before they can make any money for themselves and for their sport. This places a tremendous burden on them. It is difficult to get accurate figures for rugby football, a, very well managed sport, but I am told that not less than £60,000 a year is taken from the clubs in S.E.T. When we think how generous the Government are being in the grants which they make we also ought to remember how much they are getting back from sporting organisations which can ill afford additional impositions of tax at the moment. Many of them, indeed, are in debt. I think that this is a matter which the Government ought to look at very seriously indeed.
In passing, I should like to ask why there is no annual report of the Sports Council's activities. An excellent document was produced in November, 1966, but since then I have been able to find nothing comparable to cover the last 18 months. I am aware that the Minister for Sport—and I think that he is a very good choice as Minister—gave in another place, on Friday, January 19 this year, a long and interesting report on many aspects of the Council's work, but this was a matter of luck and quite fortuitous. It came about only because another debate closed down early, and thanks to the private enterprise of one of the Socialist Members the subject was put on as the "last turn" of the day. A Council as important as this ought to be encouraged from now onwards to produce a well-illustrated annual report of all its activities. Indeed, I am wondering, and have been wondering for some time, whether the Government would not be well advised, as both noble Lords who 1163 have preceded me have said, to make this an executive Council rather than an advisory one. I am quite sure that the Arts Council provides the precedent which is needed here. I should like to hear from the Government the arguments against turning this Council into an executive body.
If the Council remains advisory, I still believe that there ought to be an overhaul of the administrative channels though which it works, particularly in the way in which it makes grants. I am told that some difficulty arises from the restrictive nature of the Physical Recreation Act 1937. I do not know about this, but if this is so have the Government any plans for amending it in the near future? I am also told that any recommendation by the Sports Council for a grant—and, being an advisory body, the Council can only make recommendations—has to go to the Treasury for approval if any item exceeds £500, or if any governing body or any other body is to receive more than £1,000 in a year. This seems to be quite disproportionate. I should have thought that at the moment the Treasury had enough on its hands without having to take an interest in items as small as this. It seems to me that either the limit ought to be raised or that, better still, the Sports Council should be given its own budget and be left to get on with the job.
I should like now to say a few words about sport and television. Here I am not referring to professional sport at all, but only to the amateur side. This debate provides an appropriate opportunity to get this subject aired at the appropriate level. I am not one of those people who think that our amateur sports can rely for their income entirely on fees from television. I certainly do not agree that there is no need for the sports themselves to contribute very much to their upkeep. This is a fallacy. Indeed, where sports tend to take this line, I believe that they soon become extremely unhealthy. I have been much impressed by the efficiency, stability and enthusiasm which there is in the Rugby Football Union. There they certainly believe in contributing to the financial support of the game; and indeed they have gone further and over the years have built up some remarkably valuable assets. This is a lesson to other governing bodies, 1164 too. Therefore, I do not believe that television should be regarded as the automatic saviour of amateur sport.
On the other hand, I do not believe that amateur sport has had as good a deal as it should have had from television. First, very little coverage is given to the so-called minority sports. Even a little coverage would be a tremendous stimulus to some of these smaller sports. According to the B.B.C. Handbook, the total television coverage of sports and news reports—and this must relate to professional sport as well as amateur—is only 143 hours in a year. This is the second lowest on the list; it is just below religious broadcasts. I do not know what the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chester, will make of this—no doubt he will have mixed views—but it is very low down on the list. Secondly, when one considers the small outlay in televising outdoor sport, particularly athletic meetings, and that the average viewing on Saturday afternoon appears to be something of the order of 7 million viewers, I should have thought that there was a case for a fairly substantial fee to go to sport from this source.
Thirdly, I think that a great deal more could be done for amateur sport and the public if the television authorities would give more publicity to events in good time before they take place. The authorities make great play with what they are doing for the sport, but when one sees how comparatively little pre-publicity there is, I am sure that there is tremendous room for improvement. Last Saturday the Indoor Athletic Championships took place at Cosford. I happened to see the trailer on Friday night which was a shot of a pole vaulter which was on the screen only long enough for the man to take two paces; he never even got to the jump. That was the sum total of pre-publicity for the National Indoor Championships. I do not think many people knew where Cosford was or how to get there, but what a help it would have been to the Indoor Championships if 15 seconds had been devoted to telling the public this. Then, instead of having 1,000 people there, we might have had 5,000 or 6,000 attending.
The television authorities can help in this way, and if there are to be contracts with the governing bodies themselves this is the sort of clause that 1165 ought to be written in. I hardly ever see games like hockey, basket-ball or lacrosse on television, and I think that an occasional game ought to be shown. I believe that the Sports Council might help considerably if it convened a conference of the governing bodies of those amateur sports which are interested in having television so that they can establish a united front to try to get a better deal from the television authorities. In this connection I am delighted that this year the Women's Amateur Athletic Association are going to have their championships televised by A.T.V. This is a great step forward. They managed to get a little television last year because they had one of our better men athletes running in their invitation event. But now they find that they are going to get it on their own merits.
I have deliberately not referred to the Committee over which I am at present presiding, which has the task of looking into the future of amateur athletics in this country. I believe that I should not anticipate the report, but I can say that we hope it will be ready for publication in March. In another place there was some criticism about the time which this and other committees were taking, and indeed one implication was that the Government set up committees of this sort in order to procrastinate. I should like to make it quite clear that so far as what is called "The Byers Committee" is concerned, it was not set up by the Government but by the British Athletics Board and the Amateur Athletics Association; and it was certainly not set up to enable decisions to be evaded. I am not claiming that a year for a report to be produced is reasonable. Perhaps if we had had five or six paid people, full-time, we might have been able to get a report of this nature out in six months.
We ought to realise the tremendous work which has been done by volunteers who give up their own time to sit on these committees and who travel quite long distances. Therefore, I do not think that, in the circumstances 10 months to a year is an unreasonable period in which to bring out an important report. As for my own Committee, I should like to pay tribute to the tremendous amount of work and effort which they have put in. I say this particularly about the members from 1166 the other sports who have joined the Committee to help to do something for the future of British Athletics. I believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with British sport. But I do believe there is a great deal which can be done to improve it, and in this the Sports Council and the C.C.P.R. are, in my view, doing a first-class job.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, I think one thing emerges straight away from this debate, and that is the vitality shown in your Lordships' House on the subject of sport. We are very grateful to my noble friend Lord Willis for putting down this Motion. Let me say that it is no embarrassment to Ministers to debate leisure. Indeed, if I may say so, we did a certain amount to facilitate the early discussion of this subject. I am not sure that my noble friend was not a little ungracious to the Government on that aspect. It is over two years since this House debated the question of sport, on a Motion moved by my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry, who, of course, we are delighted will be speaking, with her great knowledge of this subject.
Also I very much welcome—and it is consistent with our discussions on this sort of matter—the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, recognised that this is a subject which, in general, cuts across Party divisions. On the last occasion we had a very stimulating and interesting discussion. I am prepared to acquit the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and all noble Lords, of making Party political points when they talk about the S.E.T., and they will not expect me again to argue the question. I was interested in the noble Lord's figures in regard to gliding, and I should like to check those. But I will not pursue this point, because I believe that this is an occasion when noble Lords are speaking not merely to the Government, but to the country.
This is a field of partnership, as I hope I shall make clear in my speech, and not just an area of Government responsibility. It was clear that some of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Willis, in his extremely thoughtful speech—which it was very evident your Lordships enjoyed and were stimulated by—were directed not to the Government but to the community at large, and that is one 1167 of the roles that these debates of ours fulfil. Recent years have shown very clearly the need to assess the general provision for leisure in this country. That need arises, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, not so much from a general increase in the amount of leisure—because if one looks at the average hours worked in industry one finds that there has been not quite such a great increase of leisure as one might have expected; it has been rather more marginal—as from changes in the physical and mental demands of work, and indeed from the development of individual tastes and demands.
Tastes and appetites for particular forms of activity have developed in a very remarkable way. To change the field, one has only to look at the enormously increased interest in music and the arts which has developed over the last forty years, particularly, I think, under the stimulus of the B.B.C. and the noble Lord, Lord Reith, many years past. The same thing is developing in the field of sport. Pioneers who have sought to arouse interest, who have devoted themselves in the admirable voluntary way that informs so much of the sporting world, have achieved among our people a greater need and a greater taste. Perhaps the improvement in the standard of living, which dates from the days of the opening of the war, is also a factor in this desire.
In fact, increased affluence and, furthermore, car ownership have enabled more people to choose from a wider range of activities. Perhaps the greatest impact of this has been felt in the countryside, particularly in the demand for recreational use of mountains and hills and inland waters. Although I am tempted to move in that direction—and the debate on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, last night on winter sports in the Cairngorms showed the development of those interests—we ought not to over-emphasise the movement away from the towns. There are few signs of decline in participation in the traditional team games, but I will not now get into a discussion about whether we are becoming a nation of spectators.
The fact is that there are many indications of substantial growth, and over a much wider spectrum of sport—the noble Lord, Lord Byers, mentioned some of 1168 them—whether it be badminton, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Willis, golf, judo, gliding, squash rackets, ski-ing or sailing. I do not know who represents the rowing interests—I see we have a former oarsman on the Episcopal Bench. One could go through them at great length. Practically everybody who is taking part in this debate, with the exception of myself—I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Willis is an outstanding performer—have themselves been outstanding performers, including, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Many of these sports can be enjoyed equally by men and women and, fortunately, several can be and are followed by large numbers of people over the age of 30. So there is a strong demand for sport and recreation facilities in both town and countryside.
I shall try to deal with a very few of the points that have been mentioned, but I should like to say something here about Government philosophy in relation to sport—the way which I believe we are all beginning to think is the right line of development. There are those who have been afraid that the work of the Sports Council and the Government's direct financial support expose the voluntary bodies to the dead hand of bureaucracy, and it is quite clear that we must walk this particular path with great care. But I think it is pretty generally accepted that the path that has been followed has been just about right. We see the role of Government as that of creating a partnership and of encouraging sport to help itself. That is not easy. Some will criticise the Government for doing too little and others will say that we interfere too much. But I think we can be confident that the more positive role in which we have gained experience shows that so far we are on the right path.
The Government's interest in sport and physical recreation is not limited to the field in which direct Exchequer assistance is given. The noble Lord referred, very delicately, to Election promises. I think that, curiously enough, the figure of £5 million also found its way into the Conservative Manifesto. It is difficult to total up these sums, because of the indirect grant which is made, but I am informed that something like £2 million is directly going from Government sources. Of course, Exchequer 1169 assistance is given in a number of ways, and sports facilities are provided in many other ways—by local authorities, by local education authorities in connection with schools and other educational institutions, and as part of the work of youth centres and community centres.
The Government's encouragement, help and advice extends to all this field, and beyond; it is not limited just to organised games. The needs of the individual—and this is something with which every Member of your Lordships' House will agree—are pre-eminent in this matter and must be considered. The object of policy is to provide greater opportunities for everyone to enjoy the leisure activity of his choice and to make adequate provision for the whole range of leisure activities which are available in this country, and for some leisure activities which people were inclined to think would not easily be available in this country, though we now find that they can be provided. There is also, of course, the widening interest of Government in the provision of facilities for recreation and leisure. I feel that, in talking about the Government's attitude, which is my duty to-day, it is in order to match the general advice that is given and to spell out the limitations on Government action; but there will be the provision of facilities in the Countryside Bill, which is being considered in another place, and in the proposed cruising waterways.
My Lords, while talking about the range of sport perhaps I may say that I noted with interest what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said about the desirability of giving more publicity on television and radio to particular sports. I must say that in certain respects the public taste in regard to sports does not wholly please me. I wish that there was very much less wrestling, and I should be very happy to see rather more of certain other activities. But here in this matter, again, we have to leave it to these competitive, or to some extent semi-competitive, organisations; although I do not doubt that both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. will have listened to the views that have been expressed by noble Lords. I think that perhaps I will not be drawn into this question as to whether the B.B.C. have made a "corner" in athletics. Ultimately, of course, if there are contracts, they will run out; and, of course, there 1170 are certain major matters in respect of which, as noble Lords know (because it was debated in your Lordships' House), there are powers to prevent either of the two Authorities from making a "corner" in televising national events.
I am very grateful to noble Lords who have recognised that the setting up of the Sports Council marked a significant step forward in promoting not merely organisation but a real dialogue between sport and the Government, and also co-ordination between the many Government Departments which have responsibilities in the field of sport. I believe that there is now a pretty good relationship, based upon mutual confidence; and the development of sporting facilities is proceeding at a good pace. Incidentally, the Bingham joint project is not being held up. As I understand, it is at present under construction.
My Lords, the Government's chosen instrument is the Sports Council. The Council are concerned, of course, only with amateur sport, but I think noble Lords should know that the Government are not neglecting professional sport. This is not, I am sure, going to be the main subject of our discussion to-day, but as one noble Lord pointed out, it is ultimately the professional who helps to lead on to the desired standards of excellence. What is so striking is the way in which every sport has been driven into providing some sort of professionalism, whether you find it in such subjects as ski-ing or even in mountaineering. People may regret modern mountaineering techniques; they may regret that there are in fact professionals. But, by and large, they have improved the standards and provide a focus of excellence.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord is not suggesting that athletics in this country have become professional. I was referring to professional administration.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I certainly was not referring to this aspect; nor do I propose to be very sensitive on this subject of professionalism and amateurism. But, of course, we have professional coaches and we have professional guides. At some stage people will have to be paid. I mention this, not to advance over this rather uncertain area but merely to say that the matter which I think has 1171 given perhaps the greatest pride to this country, to a quite astonishing degree, was the winning of the World Cup. But let no one think that I am trying to claim credit for the Government for this. In this great achievement, in which we took such pride, there was in fact a very good job done in organising the World Cup in this country. At the moment, there is a football inquiry, under Mr. Norman Chester, which was set up by my honourable friend at the request of various football bodies and which is looking into every aspect of the game.
My Lords, despite the economic difficulties of the last three years, progress has been made and the Sports Council can look back on a good deal of solid achievement. We now have a much clearer picture of the facilities available and the direction in which we should move; and the amount of direct Government aid to national governing bodies of sports for international events, administration and coaching schemes, and in grants towards the capital costs of new or improved facilities provided by local voluntary organisations and of national facilities, has steadily increased.
That so much progress has been made is due in no small measure, I believe, to the enthusiasm and quite boundless energy of my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, in his dual role as Chairman of the Council and as a Minister who has many departmental responsibilities other than sport. I have listened to my honourable friend, and in many ways I regard his appointment as justified by the present somewhat confusing situation with regard to the organisation of national sport in this country. Indeed, although I will acknowledge all the theoretical arguments for a different type of organisation, the existence of the Sports Council in its present form, and his chairmanship, can be achieved only if we are going to enable a Minister to bring to bear the sort of impact that he has been able to bring to bear on sport.
Noble Lords are too familiar with the arrangements between the Sports Council and the Central Council of Physical Recreation for me to need to explain just how these have come about, and the particular relations between the two 1172 bodies. Indeed, I rather shrink from explaining them, because when one tries to explain them anybody who is concerned with organisation is liable to say, "It is frightfully ingenious, but how can it work?"The fact is, my Lords, that it does work, and it works in the special evolutionary circumstances through which we are moving to-day. In this respect, I prefer to move in this way during this stage.
I would say to my noble friend Lord Willis, and to other noble Lords, that the Government's mind is not closed on this matter, and that an advance towards a different type of organisation may in the end be desirable. I am quite sure, however, that at this stage it is better to have achieved this rather flexible arrangement, from which I believe we get the best that can be given by all the different organisations. I am sure that some noble Lords will continue to criticise the set-up. All I would say is that it works, and that great progress has been made. And I want to see it continuing to make this sort of progress over the next few years.
The Central Council of Physical Recreation continue to provide quite admirable services to the community. As one who has had occasion to make use of the Central Council of Physical Recreation in organising sporting and other activities in industry, I cannot speak too highly of the quality of the service and enthusiasm they bring to bear. It covers a staggering range of subjects. I will not mention all the particular centres that they run; although I am glad to know that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who has been so particularly concerned with Plasy-Brenin is to take part in the debate. Incidentally, I should be interested if the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, could tell us how well the snow-making machine at the top of Snowdon really works. Before leaving the C.C.P.R., I ought also to pay a tribute to the National Playing Fields Association.
Most of the work done by the Sports Council can be described in relation to the work of the different committees. I do not think I have time to detail all that has been done, but I would mention first the work of the International Committee (now under Mr. Robert Gibb) which was presided over with such success by my noble friend Lady Burton. 1173 This is concerned with the scheme of assistance under which grants are made, on the recommendation of the Sports Council, towards the cost of participation by national amateur teams in international events.
In 1964–65, when grants were made only in respect of participation in overseas events, the total expenditure, apart from a grant of £30,000 to the British Olympic Association towards the cost of the Tokyo Olympic Games, was less than £10,000. In 1966–67 the figure was £45,000 and in the current year it is expected to be over £60,000. The largest grant in recent years was in respect of the Commonwealth Games; a contribution of £5,000 was made towards the Games Appeal Fund and £3,960 was offered towards the costs of technical officials required by the Government of Jamaica. In the current year the grants include a contribution of £5,000 to the British Universities Sports Federation towards the cost of participating in the World Student Games in Tokyo.
This year, 1968, is Olympic Year. Here we have the advantage of the assistance of noble Lords like Lord Exeter and Lord Luke, who have given great service in the International Olympic Committee. I am sure that we should all wish to echo what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said last night in sending good wishes to our competitors at Grenoble; and, despite the lack of facilities so far developed in this country, we hope that one day the leading role of the British in winter sports will be reasserted. There are particular problems in relation to the Olympic Games which I think will be familiar enough to noble Lords for me not to have to deal with them. There is the particular problem of acclimatisation and the difficulties of the high daytime temperatures and altitude at Mexico City.
On a Sports Council recommendation, the Government have agreed to assist governing bodies in sending competitors to France to use the facilities which have been so generously put at the disposal of British athletes by the French. In connection with this a special grant has been given for a research project which Dr. Pugh, of the Medical Research Council, has carried out. In addition, the Government have agreed to make a grant for pre-Olympic training. The governing 1174 bodies recently have been invited apply for assistance towards the cost of up to 14 days' special training in Britain for selected teams. British teams will thus have more opportunity to come together for training before the Games.
In particular, I am glad to be able to say that the Government have agreed to make a grant to the British Olympic Association in respect of the cost of our participation in the 1968 Olympics. The grant will be based on 50 per cent. of the travel costs of competitors, coaches and managers and a modest allowance towards the out-of-pocket expenses of competitors. Grant will also be available towards the travel costs of technical officials. The size of the maximum grant offered will depend on the number of competitors and officials travelling to Grenoble and Mexico City, and details have yet to be agreed with the British Olympic Association. We also need to look ahead to the next Commonwealth Games to be held in Edinburgh. Here the Government have promised a grant of £750,000 towards the cost of the sports centre.
This is such a wide and fascinating subject that I am afraid I shall have to leave other noble Lords to go further into the sports development side and to elaborate on the information which is contained in the Report of the Sports Council. Under Mr. Munrow of Birmingham University a great deal has been going on in regard to sports in the development and coaching committee. In the last two years, members of the Sports Council have taken part in a comprehensive series of informal meetings with representatives of national governing bodies in England, Scotland and Wales with the aim—and I attach great importance to this—of getting the governing bodies to submit five-year plans as a basis for considering future grant assistance towards approved development. Thirty bodies have already done so.
I believe that on this important question it is necessary for the individual sports to do their own thinking. Some of them are, in fact, doing this long-term thinking for the first time. Most particular interest surrounds the Report that we are awaiting from the noble Lord, Lord Byers; and he is perfectly correct to point out that this has been established under both the Amateur Athletic Association and the British Amateur 1175 Athletic Board. Perhaps when that Report comes out we shall have the opportunity to consider the matter further.
Then there is the important work of the Research Committee. Funds have been made available and, under Dr. Roger Bannister, some important research is now taking place. There have been grants of £32,000 a year towards the cost of five quite fascinating research projects, details of which I have not time to go into, and, in particular, funds are being made available for research at universities. Six bursaries have been awarded to university and college lecturers to study research techniques.
Then there is the Facilities Planning Council under Lord Porchester. I think all that one can really say here is the importance of a high level of utilisation; but, of course, this means a sensible utilisation. It does not mean you can play games continually on grass pitches; but, on the other hand, there are some which are not fully used—and this is particularly true in industry.
In the current financial year the total expenditure in providing facilities will amount to about three times as much as in 1964–65, a satisfactory increase in all the circumstances. We are all grateful to the County Playing Fields Associations for the assistance they give to local clubs in their applications for capital grants under the 1937 Act. There is much that could be said on this fascinating topic. I do not think I have begun to cover the field, but I hope I have made the position clear and that your Lordships will agree that the picture I have given reveals that the attitude of the Government is one which on the whole we may approve as being an appropriate attitude for the Government to take.
It is bound to be the case that the Government will not provide all the money that is needed. Taking part in debates in your Lordships' House on different subjects, as for example two days ago, when we discussed the Reports of the Factory Inspectors, one appreciates that there is ample scope for the useful expenditure of funds. But the important thing is that there is a steady progress in this direction. I think there is a satisfactory philosophy of partnership between the Government and voluntary effort, and 1176 that we may properly regard the situation as encouraging. There is no ground for smugness, but there is plenty of opportunity for enthusiasm, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, will be satisfied that he has made his contribution.
§ 4.31 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LICHFIELD
My Lords, in my intervention in this debate, I do not speak as an expert. I can claim merely to be an old rowing man who is his day took a fairly active part in sport. I cannot claim to have reached the eminence attained by my brother of Chester, who umpired the Boat Race. I think I am right in saying that on the first occasion he did that, the crew from his own University were so staggered to see a Bishop in the Umpire's launch that their boat promptly sank.
I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for the manner in which he introduced this important debate. I should like to join with noble Lords who have already spoken and pay a warm tribute to what I thought was a most remarkable and very interesting speech. When I first saw the Notice of this debate on the Order Paper, I thought it was something that I should very much like to hear, and as I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I was not in any way disappointed. I thought he was absolutely right to put down this Motion, because, after all, it is a subject which affects the lives of millions of people.
Millions of the population take a deep interest in sport in one way or another, and what goes on in the world of sport is of great importance in the life of the nation. But I do not agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said about the recent report issued by some doctors in Birmingham on the subject of soccer hooliganism. It seemed to me that the noble Lord dismissed it as being of comparatively minor importance. I think it a pity that the report came out in the way in which it did: it seemed to leak out in a rather unfortunate way.
I have read the report in full, and I believe that it says some very important things. Some of its findings merit very careful study. For instance, I would note remarks such as this:More of these young men should be playing football rather than watching it.1177 I regard that as a very important statement; we should note it, and see what we can do to foster the playing of games. We must not rest content until further facilities are provided for many junior clubs—not merely the well-known clubs, but junior clubs where chaps who are not particularly expert can get a good game and enjoy themselves
In my view this is particularly important in relation to great built-up areas, such as the enormous conurbation which we have in the West Midlands. A recently published survey implies that one acre of playing space is sufficient for about 1,000 people. But I think I am right in saying that the National Playing Fields Association (the noble Lord, Lord Luke, will speak with authority about this) would assess the figure of six acres per 1,000 people as the ideal, and not one acre.
Am I not right in saying that this matter of the provision of playing space is left by the Ministry to the local authorities? I am not for a moment decrying the efforts made by the local authorities, but leaving it to them means that standards of provision will vary very much from one authority to another. Ministries do not allow these variations to occur in other spheres, such as education, health and so on. In the provision of hospitals and schools certain very definite ministerial standards are laid down and all authorities have to abide by them. I should have thought there was a case for an equally stringent view to be taken regarding playing space.
Obviously, my Lords, in a small country such as ours, and with our very large population, the space at our disposal is bound to be limited. We must therefore consider carefully how we use all the space that we have. I was struck by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, about the way in which sports facilities should be used by all sections of the community. That should apply in relation to school playing fields. Sometimes out of term time we can see school playing fields standing idle, and I think that is a great pity. I can understand that if these fields and facilities were used by other people headmasters might object strongly, and might feel that the beautiful playing fields on which they had spent so much labour would be spoiled. But with a careful system of supervision, and by allowing only bona 1178 fide clubs to use them, more extensive use could be made of fields and facilities. This is something to which we must give close attention in order to make the best possible use of every acre of playing space.
As has already been mentioned to-day, in this matter of sport, statutory and voluntary organisations should combine to the fullest extent. I am sure it is right that the State, with its great resources, should play a large part. It is the duty of the State to help our young people to grow up into fit and healthy people, and the provision of sporting facilities is most important in that regard: fresh air and hard exercise may prevent many an ill. Nevertheless, I believe it would be a bad day for this country if the State ran the whole thing.
I thought the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was absolutely right when he said that the State cannot, and indeed should not, provide all the money needed for this kind of activity. We must have the voluntary effort, too, because if everything is laid on for people without any effort on their part, they will never appreciate any facility as they would if they had done something to help to provide it. The same is true in every department of life. People have to make an effort for themselves, and it is when you see the members of a small sports club making an effort to raise a bit of money to improve their club facilities that you find keenness. In other forms of youth work we get remarkably good co-operation between statutory and voluntary organisations. I cannot speak too highly of the support which the voluntary organisations in the part of the country from which I come receive from the statutory authority. I am quite sure that the same co-operation should apply in respect of sport.
To return for a moment to the report issued in the last few days by Midland doctors, I think we ought to note that the hooliganism which, unfortunately, has been spoiling the enjoyment of many spectators of association football, is not caused by the game. That hooliganism is part of an unpleasant aspect of life to-day, and it can be fanned by events that occur on the field of play. I can speak as one who has watched many a professional football match. It is a great pleasure to see a game that is hard but 1179 clean; it is sickening to watch one in which there is one foul after another, and then arguing with the referee. Our young people admire the stars of the team they support; I am sure that they give them untold admiration. I am also sure that their own behaviour is greatly influenced by the behaviour of those stars, and I hope that still further efforts will be made to see that on the field of professional play their behaviour is what it ought to be.
I think that it is often very good. Do not let us get this matter out of proportion. We see many good sporting games, but certain aspects of the game at the moment do not give the right impression, and there are certain aspects of behaviour which ought to be eliminated. For example, when a goal is scored is it necessary to see quite such an emotional display of hugging as goes on? I do not think it does any good, and it should be cut out—and it could be cut out if only clubs would tell their players not to do it.
May I turn to another matter for a moment. May I express the earnest hope that major sporting events will not be allowed to take place on Sundays. The churches may have their critics, and they may deserve criticism. I do not deny that. But surely we should all agree that the churches are trying to do their best to influence for good the youth of this country. We are striving to do that by every means in our power. If major sporting events begin to take place on Sunday—I am thinking of Test matches and big professional soccer matches—it is going to make our work among young people all that much harder. Let us remember that and the possible effects that may flow from it. And, by the way, I saw not so long ago the suggestion that the Boat Race should take place on a Sunday afternoon, and I am glad to hear that that is not going to be the case. These major events are bound to create an enormous amount of extra work. Further, what about the conscientious scruples perhaps of some players who may not wish to take part in these events on a Sunday? I think that is a matter which should not be overlooked.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, when talking of Sunday would the right reverend Prelate make a distinction between 1180 Sunday forenoon and the rest of the day?
THE LORD BISHOP OF LICHFIELD
My Lords, in the matter of major events, no, I would not. In regard to the minor events I would be ready to do so. I come to my final point—that is, to express warm thanks to some people to whom thanks are due. The people I am especially referring to are the sporting journalists and commentators. By and large they stand firmly for a good standard of conduct on the field of play. I have often read or listened to their remarks, in which they have made that stand without compromise, and I am sure that they serve the game well when they take that stand.
May I also thank the many people who give up their time and make the effort to serve their fellow citizens by organising their sport for them; the many people who give up a great deal of their own leisure in order to serve the community. I think that we should recognise that with much gratitude. May all who care about this matter—and I speak as one who cares about it a great deal—play their part in seeing that in our sports we eliminate gamesmanship and always stand firmly for that sportsmanship of which our nation has ever been justly proud.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ LORD LUKE
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for introducing this debate. He is right in saying that we should take a day off from time to time to discuss matters such as sport. I was a little disappointed that he did not bring us more up to date on the work of the Sports Council, though the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, raised the veil a little. But I have no doubt that the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, who is to speak later, will give us more information.
I share the regret expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that the only document we have in our hands is dated November, 1966. In its time this was a most informative document, with plenty of good intentions, most of which would have cost a great deal of money. No doubt the low priorities of these matters have caused less money to be available and therefore has retarded progress. Again I would echo what the noble 1181 Lord, Lord Byers, said and hope that even if there is not enough money at the present moment or in view, planning will go on.
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, paid tribute to the work of Mr. Denis Howell. I should like to join them in their tribute to him, as I would join in their tribute to the work of the Sports Council since it began and to the work that the C.C.P.R. has done with them. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, raised some interesting points, one of which was that full use should be made of our present facilities. I think I can do a little bit of linking up here. As Chairman of the National Playing Fields Association, I am slightly at the butt end of it. When people see those beautiful green fields, they say, "There are plenty of them, what do you want any more for?". This seems to me to be the wrong psychological approach to the problem, apart from the fact that many school grounds and buildings are not being used out of school hours and in the school holidays. I very much hope that we shall hear of progress towards this end. I know that Mr. Howell has this very much in mind.
I think a good deal could be done if we took up Lord Willis's suggestion of a national recreational service. In the Playing Fields Association we have been trying to get local authorities who are large enough to set up their own recreational committees, bringing together the heads of the various departments who have to deal with matters of recreation. There would be the education, planning and parks departments, who would come together on recreational aspects instead of being, as at the present moment, busy with their own duties and not looking at recreation as a whole. I hope that some notice may be taken of this, and that we can get a bit further forward with it. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, again for what he said about having more imagination in regard to facilities. I can assure him that we are using as much imagination as we can in the provision of floodlighting, a wall for tennis and the Dutch barn, which are some of the things he mentioned.
I declare at the outset my interest in the National Playing Fields Association, and if I use the word "we" instead of 1182 that mouthful I hope your Lordships will understand to what I am referring. It is, indeed, appropriate that we should have this debate at the beginning of an Olympic Year. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned this and sent out good wishes to Grenoble and later to Mexico City. We are all taking notice once again of those who will represent this country in the various sports, and we can all pay tribute to the way in which the Government, through the grants which they have made available, have assisted our ambassadors in sport with facilities for training and in paying for expenses in getting there. It is, indeed, an excellent form of international work that the Sports Council are doing.
But I believe that of equal importance is the contribution which British delegates can make by attending international conferences connected with sport and recreation. I hope that these delegates will receive assistance in their attendance overseas. I believe that we should pay special attention to the technical and training needs of the developing countries the Commonwealth. We have a special contribution that we can make, and I hope we shall not miss making it. Again visiting teams and delegates to this country should not be overlooked, and assistance should be given towards the expenditure by sporting and other bodies here who are arranging for these events and conferences. To a certain extent, we are able to-day, with a limited budget, to give to overseas countries a certain amount of technical advice and literature on facilities.
Turning to the home field, we find that much work has already been done through regional sports councils to assess the needs for larger schemes. Mention was made by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, of the surveys. Certainly the present time, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, could be called the era of the sports centre, and it is very encouraging to see these community recreational and social centres springing up in the older towns as well as in the new towns. We all know about the community centre at Harlow and those in other places. They are fine, but then provision was comparatively easy. But take the case of Basingstoke, which is trying to carve out the centre of the old part of the town and put a 1183 community centre there. That example is quite excellent, and I hope it will be copied. It is very expensive, but I hope that much more will be seen of that type of development. I am sure that that is the right way to cater for the needs of the present generation.
I hope that the Sports Council will give full weight and attention to development of that sort, and also to the schemes for swimming pools. I know that a good deal of progress has been made in regard both to large and small swimming pools. I think we have just about completed the Olympic swimming pools, and I hope that now we shall go further and see some not so expensive but very good swimming pools for particular areas, and other large-scale outdoor facilities.
But, important as the large-scale facilities are, I am equally concerned further down the scale, somewhat at the grass roots, in the less spectacular field among the younger members of the community who are just coming into their first experience of recreation before they have really grown into sport. It is difficult to define where the dividing line should be, but perhaps we might call recreation the mother of sport and leave it at that. If there are no facilities for recreation at an early age—which is still the case in far too many instances—young people grow up to invent their own perhaps not too salutary leisure activities, which develop into sport of a different kind from that which we are discussing to-day.
Unfortunately, the greatest needs in this sphere are in the most populous areas, where again facilities are most costly to provide. Although a standard for play- space for housing estates was laid down by the Minister last year, as were other standards, the only standard that was not made mandatory was that for play-space in housing estates. I have given the noble Baroness who is to reply notice of this point, but I think it is worth reminding your Lordships that Mr. Robert Mellish, the Minister, said last June that it had come as a shock to him to learn that one in four of the larger local authorities had not been providing play-spaces on estates where there are flats. Can you imagine the situation, with young children hardly ever leaving the flats for some recreation in a safe place? No parent would allow them down just to wander in the streets. 1184 With these flats, if there is no proper provision for recreation for the children, what are they to do? Well, I leave that to the imagination of your Lordships.
There is another matter to which I should like to draw attention, and that is the question of rating of amateur sports clubs. In the debate in the other place on May 10, 1961, the then Minister of Housing and Local Government expressed the hope that rating authorities would treat amateur sports clubs with understanding, discrimination and sympathy. I am sure that the majority try to do so, but in these days of financial pressures councils may well feel that they must protect the ratepayer at the expense of recreation. We accept that if one allows discretionary powers to local authorities there is bound to be a wide difference in the treatment of clubs. However, the fact remains that if this country wishes to encourage British sport, the best way to set about it is not by taxing the facilities. I have not mentioned the selective employment tax again, but possibly that it is still in our minds.
As the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, there is, and must be, a large voluntary element in the provision of sports and recreation facilities. I was grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said in what he described as the Government's philosophy towards sport, and about there being now a better dialogue between Government and sport, and indeed a partnership between what the Government can do and what the branch element can do. So, whether it be in rural schemes or in great community centres, individuals and industry are making their contributions to fill the gaps that are left by Government and local authorities. I am sure that this is as it should be.
The National Playing Fields Association have tried to fill some of these financial gaps; and I can assure your Lordships that a great number of applications for help in various schemes are coming in all the time. We try never to refuse any of these applications. Admittedly, what we can do is very small compared with what can be done by local authorities or by the Government, but all the time we are making grants towards grounds development, pavilions, club activities and so forth, and we are able 1185 to do this partly due to the generosity of the public.
But there are other features in the whole picture, apart from finance. There is, for instance, the need for filling the gap or, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, called it, the gulf. He described the gulf as the post-school area. But there are, in fact, two: one before school age and one after school age; and they are not being provided for. There ought to be more provision for the pre-school-age young people. I have already touched on that matter when I spoke about the place of sport on housing estates.
Then, there is the technical service. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned the technical service and the research which the Sports Council are doing. We are trying very hard in the counties to work up our technical service, which is good in parts, but not so good in others, to keep up to a standard which can match what the Sports Council are doing in the formation of schemes and research into new methods of construction.
Then, again, and almost lastly—I am sorry to have kept noble Lords for so long—there are the play leadership schemes, which I think could work in very well to the suggested national recreation service. These, of course, are built around the out-of-school and holiday periods for a very wide range of children, and these are being pressed onwards. These are the kind of tasks which form the counterpart to the work of the Sports Council and they are carried on with the full approval of that Council. Well, the need for all these facilities is continuous just as the population increase is continuous; and I think they are very important, alongside the importance of housing itself.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for giving us an opportunity to discuss this very pleasant subject of sport and its development in Britain, and for doing so in such a light-hearted manner. The subject obviously is important, precisely because it is pleasant and because it should be light-hearted. We in this country have a great tradition of the value we have long attached to sport, and, unlike other traditions and reputations 1186 such as Empire and world power, which, as we know, pass away, I believe that sport, if interpreted correctly, is one of our traditions which can be, and should be, preserved.
I should like to join the chorus of unaccustomed praise given to the Government for the impetus they have given to planning and training, for the organisational structure they have set up and for the administrative grants which they have given to national bodies to develop. As I see it, this has been a very considerable achievement of the Government in the last three years, and I should like to add my personal compliments to Mr. Denis Howell, the Minister for Sport.
Like other noble Lords, I have certain reservations about the way in which the present developments may lead; and I see no harm, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, suggested, in emphasising these, even if in one way or another they have been expressed already. It is a truism that sport is an omnibus word. It is rated in a number of different ways. Its star performers are presented to us in ways which would lead one to suppose that the parade of athletes at the Olympic Games, and similar stars, is synonymous with a procession of the Blessed Saints of Heaven. I hope that the right reverend Prelates will forgive me for this irreverence. At the opposite end of the scale, I have heard it rated as no better than a non-delinquent means for killing time. We know that it is neither of these extremes. What is certain is that it means different things to different people, and this is as it should be. For a great many people, and particularly for those who watch, the main interest is on the element of excitement through competition that it presents.
We have heard quite a lot about the competitive aspect of sport this afternoon, and no doubt we shall be hearing more, and I do not propose to say anything about this side of the subject in my speech this afternoon. It is in no way intended to decry it when I suggest that, in a society so largely motivated by competition in other respects, there is a good deal to be said for encouraging leisure interests which do not depend on winning, or for that matter on losing, against anybody else. There is so much of this in our working lives that, as I see it, a capitalist society needs an antidote, a chance for 1187 individuals to join together with no issues at all between them.
This is why I welcome so much a remarkable trend in the past 15 years. This is the growing popularity of outdoor recreational activities of an individualistic or co-operative and social nature. Nowhere has this been more heartening than in our secondary schools, where a great many youngsters, who can never hope to achieve success in competitive games, now get a sense of achievement through these kinds of activities. In my day, when I was their age, we used to be known as the "rabbits" and we were sent off for runs. I often thought we deserved rather better than this denigrating title, and, thank goodness!, these latter-day rabbits have now found their own habitat. They are all over the place. I am not referring to the "bunnies" in Park Lane; I am thinking of expeditions of various kinds, climbing, caving, canoeing and sailing, and other activities of this sort. They are in a constant state of boom, and beyond school the boom goes on.
If I may mention a few figures which may be known to your Lordships but which have not so far been mentioned in the debate, I should like to refer to the Youth Hostels Association, with its tremendous membership of over 200,000, well over half of whom are active walkers. There is the Ramblers' Association with a membership of 16,000, and membership has been increasing at the rate of 1,000 a year over the past four years. Twenty years ago we had 20 climbing clubs in this country; there are now over 200; and I would say, at a conservative estimate, that the number of rock climbers and mountaineers exceeds 25,000. Ski-ing is no longer a privileged pastime, as anyone who has skied in Scotland or the North of England will know.
These figures may have been mentioned—forgive me if I repeat them—in the debate held yesterday on an Unstarred Question. There are 86 ski-ing clubs in this country, and at a very conservative estimate I would say there are about 150,000 skiers in this country.
I am a mere "Pongo," which is why I have referred to these rather pedestrian activities particularly, but I feel I must in justice refer to the canoeists whose 1188 clubs have increased from 30 to 300 in 15 years, and no less so to the yachtsmen, who have no fewer than three national bodies, one of which alone, the Schools Sailing Association, has increased from 350 to 3,000 its member educational establishments in the short space of ten years. If you add to this the gliders, potholers, skin-divers and many thousands of people who in this individualistic kind of area do not belong to clubs, you have a positive explosion out of doors.
What is quite certain is that there are more to come; and what is equally gratifying is that there is room for more, because these activities are the kinds of activities which allow for almost unlimited numbers. I would say that, in terms of cost effectiveness, there is a great deal to be said for developing activities which do not depend on elaborate buildings or on maintaining and constructing expensive playing grounds, and, as Lord Willis mentioned, which do not depend at all on the weather; in fact they are better in bad weather than in good. Planning and adequate provision are just as important in this area of sport and recreation as anywhere else. As has already been mentioned, when the Countryside Bill comes before your Lordships' House we shall have a chance to look at this in more detail. Meanwhile, I was very sorry to miss the debate on the Unstarred Question of Lord Selkirk yesterday, which illustrated the need in one particular area, the Cairngorms.
As regards priorities, particularly in a period of severe financial stringency, I hope that the local authorities will weigh carefully the relative merits of such amenities as camping grounds and artificial ski-slopes against those of coffee bars; and I also hope the National Playing Fields Association—and I was particularly glad to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, just now—will consider adding items of this sort to its already lengthy shopping list.
My Lords, in all these activities standards are going up, and I think this is of great importance. It is important in two respects. Reference has been made to our skiers, who have been doing magnificently, and I should like to add my good wishes to those which have already been expressed to our competitors in the Olympic Games. Our mountaineers 1189 are second to none in the world (if one must compare them) and so no doubt are our canoeists and yachtsmen. I find the same pleasure as no doubt all your Lordships do in seeing and reading of these competitive successes, but I value them far more for their emulative effect on the young than for their gold medals, their entertainment value and, least of all, for the prestige that they confer. If the notion that Britain's standing in the world depended on her showing in the international competitions, I fear that the recent Parliamentary ski-race against the Swiss, in which the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Sandford (who I am glad to see has returned to his place) did so well and myself so dismally, could lead to the most sombre conclusions about Britain's standing in the world.
I should like to say a word about safety in these activities where risks abound. I am very much against misapplying this word "safety". We must not so hedge around our young adventurers with safeguards as to kill the very essence of the challenge; even worse, of course, to forbid an activity just because there might be an accident. I deplore the banning by local authorities of the use of reservoirs for water sports. We must demand first-class training and first-class equipment to match up to the risks which are known and which are accepted; and adequate rescue facilities to deal with the emergencies which will undoubtedly arise. The certification of coaches and instructors, the publication of safety codes for mountain activities and water sports are all admirable developments. So are the first-aid and life-saving courses which many thousands of young people are now going in for at school; and the splendid rescue services in which the Atlantic College at St. Donat's in South Wales sets an outstanding example. Facing up to danger is a worthy experience for youth.
If your Lordships will bear with me, I should like to pursue this subject on two other notes, but I shall not detain you for very long. I consider that these recreational activities transcend the normal connotation of sport. Familiarity with the countryside, the great variety of new interests which you discover when you get there—these open up a whole new world to our city-bred youth. The impact is even greater on those who are physically handicapped. I know of a 1190 number of schools and institutions for handicapped young people where canoeing and sailing are practised, and others where modest expeditions are undertaken on crutches or in wheeled chairs. Not so long ago I heard of a group of blind boys who climbed Snowdon. The effect is equally remarkable on delinquent youth, as evidence from approved schools and borstals shows.
Another particular benefit for young people is in connection with the on-going nature of these activities. They provide a link into the world of adults; they enable the young people to widen their social contacts in and outside this country and, of course, they can be continued long after the time when the majority of them are interested—if, indeed, they ever were interested—in competitive games. In recent years I have had the great pleasure and experience of taking groups of climbers and young people through the Iron Curtain into Eastern Europe to climb and walk with like-minded nationals in those countries. We have been twice to Soviet Russia, and we have been to Poland, to Czechoslovakia and to Greece, where we climbed and talked with the nationals of those countries. We have also reversed the process by asking groups to come back to this country and do the same on our little hills. We came to the conclusion that some of our talks in the Tatras, the Pindus, the Pamirs and Causasus were the best summit talks which have taken place to date.
My Lords, what I have been talking about, of course, is not all of sport; but then sport is not all of leisure, and we shall have to pursue this subject more when the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, opens his debate on Youth in two weeks' time. If sport is accepted as transcending the mere physical, then it is important to view it in the wider social context so as to make a synthesis of all the uses of leisure. We need a framework which can help, not only to iron out the conflicting claims on the available sporting and recreational amenities, but also to strike a balance between sport and all other aspects of social provision. In the last Government, the Lord President of the Council held a general brief for sport, as a kind of mediator with the various departments of State; but he was not given time by 1191 the present Administration to continue his experiment long enough. There was a good deal to be said for it, but it did not go quite far enough.
In some countries youth and sport are linked together as a Ministry, under that or a similar title. We place them both in a subordinate position under the umbrella of the Department of Education, although both are looked after by one Minister. In future, I am inclined to think that sport itself needs to be more closely identified, not with youth alone, but with all forms of leisure for all ages.
My Lords, I said that I had certain reservations about the possible trends of current developments. They are twofold; the first has already been mentioned, but I make no apology for emphasising it on a slightly different note. I refer to the dual function of the Central Council of Physical Recreation which is now called upon to administer machinery closely identified with the Government. I hope that its other traditional role of providing expert advice and coaching, of running courses, and helping to raise standards, will continue to remain entirely within the independent control of the C.C.P.R. Like other noble Lords, I must declare a non-financial interest, because I have long served on the Executive of the Central Council, and I think I can say with some knowledge that for a great many years the Central Council and the Department of Education have lived together happily out of wedlock. I felt much more happy then than I do now that the union has been made respectable. It remains to be seen whether these two aspects of its work can be made compatible. If anyone can make it work I am sure Mr. Winterbottom will do so.
The second point concerns the complex of administrative machinery which is constantly increasing, with a proliferation of paper work. The Minister for Sport said recently in another place that each of the 11 regional councils has now completed an initial survey of the needs. I am a little suspicious about the adjective "initial". I hope that the emphasis will now be on action and not on more surveys and reports, and that the officers of the C.C.P.R. will be less burdened with administration and more able to get on with their technical work for 1192 which they are trained. Having said that, I should like to say that it is not intended as a criticism of present policy. I do not doubt at all the good intentions and good faith of the Government. It is simply a warning to be very alive to the pitfalls in the path of progress.
I said at the beginning of my speech that sport is a pleasant subject—or it should be a pleasant subject. I only hope that General de Gaulle did smile when he declared open the Winter Olympic Games yesterday, as he was instructed to do by the Daily Express—all the more so because the instructions were given in excellent French. I looked in vain on my television screen last night to detect any such expression on his well-known countenance. But it is true that however sport is defined, whatever it embraces, it is only pleasant so long as it is enjoyed by all who take part and, no less important, by all who watch; so long as it is not taken too seriously, or played for too high stakes, or to prove something which has nothing whatever to do with the sport itself.
If these criteria do not fit the pastime (and we see this happening all too often); if some people—and some would add "creatures"—are deliberately made to suffer from it; if commercial interests are allowed to predominate; if outside pressures induce dishonesty or dislike; and if we value the name of sport, then that pastime had better be given some other name. It can be called "big business", "variety", "unarmed combat", or if weapons are used it can be called, as it is in America, "hunting". I suggest that in sport we have a tradition worth preserving. It is up to everyone who believes that his activity counts as a sport to preserve that tradition.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I think it is quite obvious that a debate on the subject of sport in your Lordships' House brings out, if I may say so, the best in us. No speaker seeks to secure Party advantage. Most speakers have considerable experience in this field, and it is obvious that everyone has only one aim, and that is the improvement of sporting and recreational facilities for all people in this country. What has struck me to-day more than ever is that as we move from debate to debate in this House on sport, how much 1193 progress we make. It is not that I note the progress at the time of the debate, but that by the time we reach the next one we seem to have taken a large step forward. I will come back to that at the end of my speech. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Willis, not only for putting down this Motion and giving us the opportunity to debate it, but for making such a first-class speech and raising so many points and giving us the opportunity of following them up. We are very much in his debt.
My Lords, I have been in this game for a long time. I can remember the feeling of pride when first winning a public race at the age of eight: this was a 100 yards ladies' handicap, in which I had a start of 20 yards. From those early years, like others in this House, I progressed through many sports and games where quite a large amount of financial effort was involved. For example, I found that playing county hockey in the 1920s on the salary of an elementary schoolteacher left very little money for anything else. I imagine those of us who take part in these games feel that the sacrifice is well worth while. Moving from there, into the 1930s, I wanted to swim the Channel. I do not know whether I should have got across, but any attempt to do so was out of the question because I had not the money. That is a small item in the progress of British sport, but it was a very real one so far as I was concerned.
Then I come to that long-distance swimming championship of England held annually in the Thames. I remember after school each day going across Leeds in a tram to the open air pool at Roundhay Park, where the water was the coldest I have experienced ever, but I believed that if I could train myself to swim 90 minutes up and down the pool I could withstand any temperature the Thames could muster. I could and I did. But I had no chance. Coming up to London on Friday evening after school, hiring what boat and boatman was still available for the race next day was no way of competing against people with better opportunities. I may say that having all the opportunity in the world might not have affected the result of the race, but the opportunity was not there.
None of this did me any harm; it made me tough and determined, but it gave me no chance. So here are my milestones: 1194 the first the Channel, milestone No. 2 the English long-distance swimming championship, and No. 3 was the elementary school where I taught for eleven years. During that time in games and athletics, I had many first-class girls through my hands. One I remember in particular. She was certainly of Olympic material, and I think she was of Olympic standard, but she had not the financial opportunity of going further. So the 1920s and 1930s left me with one basic belief in so far as sport was concerned, and that was that there was a lack of opportunity for training, however good you might be, because you had not the money.
If I may move on to 1951 and the forthcoming Olympic Games in 1952, it was in 1951 that The Times began to help me with this problem, and the} continued to help me right up to October of last year. I think sixteen years is a long time to help, and I should like to express my appreciation and also the appreciation of the sports organisations who were aided thereby. I do not intend to weary the House with the contents of the letter in 1951, but I should like to read one sentence which illustrates what I have been trying to bring about all this time:Surely we should see that our team is sent to these Games next year in no way so handicapped financially that it is at a disadvantage when compared with other nations.It was not only a case of thinking this. I knew at first hand over a long time that this was the position.
In 1954 I went to the U.S.S.R. with a Parliamentary delegation, and while I was there I had the opportunity to study in depth just what had influenced their enormously quick development in athletics in the early 1950s. The system in the Soviet Union offered facilities infinitely better than our own. Champions were not trained to the neglect of others but right through, from the district sporting school, the young boy or girl had the chance of expert tuition. I remember wondering then, in 1954, whether it was impossible to ensure that every promising British youngster too would one day have the same chance.
Those years in the 1950s were difficult years for many who felt as I did. They were years when this country seemed to 1195 take a positive pride in losing. Indeed, I wondered for how much longer we were going to sit in the stands looking down distastefully on the international competition below and saying how good it was just to compete. If noble Lords think I am exaggerating I can assure them that I really and truly am not.
Like many others taking part in this debate to-day, I was brought up in the amateur spirit. I respect its great qualities and its great contribution to this country and to sport. But surely the time had come to ask ourselves in the 1950s whether the spirit of the Olympics really meant that those who could not afford to go should be debarred. I thought then, and I think now, that we should make it possible for every competitor good enough to be included in our team to make the voyage, or we should stay away. In 1956 the question arose of whether both amateurs and professionals should compete in the Olympic Games. Without entering into that specific point, it seemed to me irrefutable that all Olympic competitors and Olympic competitions should be governed by the same rules. This, I think, is plain common sense, whether one is a sportsman or not. But I never received an answer to my question as to how the rules governing the equestrian section of the Olympics differed from those governing the athletics to be held in Melbourne later in 1956 or from those in force in the Winter Olympics held the previous January, and why.
In 1958, somewhat in advance of current affairs, I ventured to pursue the question of amateurism and lawn tennis. I know that it may be putting the matter somewhat simply, but I have always thought that one either made money out of sport and was a professional, or did not do so and was an amateur. Yet any athlete who accepted a cash prize became immediately a professional, while any tennis player who made a living out of lawn tennis remained an amateur. Ten years ago I believed, and I believe to-day, that the serious point undermining lawn tennis is that players are likely to remain true amateurs only if they are not in the top class. And to-day in 1968 I should like to salute the Council of the Lawn Tennis Association for their courage, their honesty and their realism. I think that, as a good many of us know, for some years 1196 past many of the members of the Lawn Tennis Association have wanted an open Wimbledon and an end to this "shamateurism." They took a considerable risk in their decision. I believed when they did it, and I believe to-day, when other countries are making up their minds, that eventually they will win.
I am convinced that the general public—and I speak as one of this group to whom Wimbledon gives much pleasure each year—will applaud their decision. Indeed, in the papers to-day I read that this approval is recognised by the number of applications that have been made for tickets. Eventually, I think, other countries will send their top players to compete. We have "Players" in cricket, and goodness knows! that was a hard enough battle. We have a golf Open championship—I do not know whether that was such a hard battle. We are now to have on Open competition at Wimbledon. Surely, in 1968, the old financial distinction belongs to a bygone era.
From all this, I think, first, that it will be obvious that for me one of the main problems arising in British sport has been that lack of finance has prevented the inclusion of some athletes in teams for international events; secondly, even before such a stage was reached the same lack of finance prevented their coming to the attention of the selectors, because no coaching scheme discovered them; thirdly, even when teams had been chosen many competitors could not afford adequate time to train, especially if the event itself meant absence overseas. I maintain that all this constituted an unfair hardship on our teams. We shall not discover our promising talent until we have recreational facilities available for all, until this base is so wide that all who wish are included. I believe that with this wide base our top talent will emerge.
How are we doing to-day, in 1968? We have made progress. In athletics, the coaching scheme in our schools is excellent—with one drawback, to which my noble friend Lord Willis and others have referred: that we seem to lose track of so many of these young champions when they leave school. Why? Sport is not alone in facing this problem. Finding an attractive—and I mean "attractive"—link to cover the transition from 1197 school to first job, to adult employment, has always caused difficulty.
Here I should like to endorse what my noble friend Lord Willis said about action on these matters seeming to be rather slow. In the '50s in another place I was Chairman of a Select Committee which spent a year inquiring into the Youth Employment Service and the Youth Services. I think we found the same things then as more recent Committees have found since: that we are slow at providing opportunities for our young people. Even though I am a Yorkshire woman, I believe that some of the conditions for our young people in our provincial cities are a disgrace. I think we are to blame for this, and not the young people. I refer in particular to the opportunities for entertainment in the evenings.
I must say how sorry I am that my noble friend Lord Wise is not here. He is shown on the list of speakers, and in his absence I should like to pay tribute to all that he has done for the Schools Athletic Association. He has done a great deal of work, and I think we all regret that he is not here to-day—not to talk about all that he has done, but to contribute to our debate from his vast knowledge on that subject. In the world of recreation and sport we shall be on our way, as other speakers have said, when we have more sports halls and all-weather sports arenas. Another factor with which we have to deal, and which has already been referred to, is the under-use of what facilities are available—grounds, courts, tracks, swimming baths, pitches. To what extent do these lie idle each week? As several noble Lords have said, the Sports Council is inquiring into this.
This Government has done its share on these matters. It has done more for sport than any other. The Sports Council was set up, and held its first meeting in February, 1965. As the House knows, I have been a member from the beginning, and was Chairman of the International Committee until pressure of work made me resign recently. This present situation is not one for calling attention to needed expansion and additional funds; but I think that the Sports Council has been unlucky in the financial period of its being. Speaking personally, I believe that the Council in its early days of thinking had every hope of increasing 1198 grants under the Physical Training and Recreation Act by 1969, to an annual sum of £5 million. But the six months' moratorium introduced in July, 1965, followed by the long "squeeze" announced in August, 1966, set us back badly; and now we have devaluation.
Therefore, I think to-day we must look at what has been achieved or set in motion. How far are individuals towards opportunity of training? How far are our Olympic teams able to be chosen on ability, with no question of finance involved? How far are we progressing towards the adequate provision of recreational facilities for overyone? The International Committee of the Sports Council has gradually extended its schemes for grant-aid to include travel grants for competitors, managers and coaches taking part in overseas events for senior, under-23, youth and school teams; to travel grants for delegates to overseas conferences (which Lord Luke will be pleased to hear and which he mentioned), and working parties in sport and physical recreation; to grants towards administration and accommodation costs of outstanding events and conferences at home; to grants for Commonwealth and Olympic Games; and to grants for Olympic preparation in Britain and for acclimatisation training at Font Romeu, in France. I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned that.
In sports development and coaching each year sees more national bodies applying for grant, and five-year plans are now being submitted by governing bodies showing how they aim to develop still further their hopes for raising their share of finance. Applications for local capital grants continue to flow in, but capital expenditure on national facilities and centres has fallen under restriction. Even so, we have succeeded in getting offers of Government grant: for Cowes, £100,000; for the Commonwealth Games facilities in Edinburgh, £750,000; for the National Equestrian Centre, £19,000. We await Government approval of the development of the National Recreation Centre at Cardiff; and there are also outstanding improvements at Bisham Abbey and Crystal Palace. For the record, the sum of £1 million, spent over a period of about three years, would clear away most of these outstanding projects. In research, we have started to 1199 grant-aid inquiries into the demands for sports facilities, the findings of which will be of great help to local authorities in planning more accurately for the future.
In its evidence to the Royal Commission the Sports Council emphasised that the development of facilities for recreation of the community was primarily the responsibility of local authorities. I would suggest that this is where real development of sports facilities should now be taking place. But, of course, again the economic situation has clamped down on public expenditure, so that loan sanction figures dropped from £14.8 million in 1965–66 to £4.8 million in 1966–67.
With all the good work of regional sports councils, and local sports advisory councils and committees, local authorities are beginning to see the need for more facilities and for sensible policies such as joint planning. Contact has been made with many Government Departments and statutory agencies which have diverse responsibilities for development of facilities for recreation and the control of natural resources. For example, discussions have taken place with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government covering the use of reservoirs and gathering grounds for recreational purposes, and an inquiry into the use of wet gravel and sand pits and surface coal areas for recreational purposes, countryside legislation and loan sanction; with the Department of Education and Science on joint planning with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on a technical advisory service; with the Ministry of Transport on recreational use of inland waterways and transport legislation; with the Ministry of Defence on redundant Territorial Army centres and civilian use of Armed Service facilities; with the Ministry of Health on sports medicine and clinics; with the Foreign Office and Commonwealth Office on international matters.
Discussions have also taken place with the National Parks Commission, the Forestry Commission, the Nature Conservancy, the British Travel Association and the water resources boards. Also, a liaison committee has been established which has recently approved the setting up of a joint research group on research 1200 studies dealing with recreation in the countryside. I suggest that this is a good beginning in any circumstances; and in those in which the Sports Council has had to operate I think that it is an excellent beginning. Apart from everyone else who has helped to bring this about I should like to pay tribute to Mr. Denis Howell and to Mr. Walter Winterbottom.
Like the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Aberdare, I, too, have spent many years working with the Central Council of Physical Recreation. I think that the present solution which we have discussed this afternoon is probably the best one. We have all spent a long time on the Sports Council and on the C.C.P.R. wondering what was the best thing to do. I think that the present position, even with its difficulties, is the best one.
My Lords, I come now (and here I do not know whether the Government will agree with me) to a development which has given me more encouragement than anything else this afternoon—it is a selfish encouragement, but I cannot help that. My main regret about the Sports Council is that I think it should have executive powers rather than advisory. Fundamentally, I believe it wrong in principle for a Sports Council to be attached to any Government Department. Surely it is for a Sports Council, not a Government Department, to take responsibility for the granting of financial aid to sport. For more than twelve years I have been advocating the setting up of a Sports Council which would receive a Government grant on the same lines as the Arts Council.
Some twelve years ago, on January 18, 1956, The Times published a letter from me suggesting that one possible solution might be the establishment of a British Sports Council which would receive a Government grant on the same lines as the Arts Council or the University Grants Committee. As the House will know, the Arts Council of Great Britain was incorporated by Royal Charter on August 9, 1946. The Council has full responsibility for policy and for the expenditure of the grant-in-aid given by Parliament. Treasury control is exercised through a Treasury assessor to the Arts Council who attends meetings of the Council and most of the meetings of the Executive 1201 Committee. The handling of the money voted by Parliament is one of the objects for which the Arts Council was incorporated, and in this respect it is in the same situation as other special bodies; such as the University Grants Committee, which deals with grants-in-aid. I believe that the grant-in-aid procedure is used quite widely where one would normally expect the usual process of legislation. It seems to me that a Sports Council could be set up by Royal Charter with a grant-in-aid and without enabling legislation, if the Government so desired.
I see that in the debate on December 8, 1965, in columns 304–306—and I say this for the attention of my noble Leader, who is not in the Chamber at the moment—I developed this matter; and I hope to see him at some future stage to pursue it. I still hope that this position about the Sports Council may be rectified, and what has delighted me so much this afternoon is to have had so much influential support in this matter. I hope that eventually we shall succeed. I think it is true to say that the three opening speakers this afternoon all supported this.
In conclusion, I wish to leave one query with the Government. Realising the financial stringency obtaining to-day, a matter to which I have already referred, and therefore dealing with the problem purely on principle, I would ask: Does British sport receive a fair share of national expenditure; and how does our policy compare with that of other Western democratic countries? Is it really right that sports bodies should have to organise collections and appeals to raise money for our Olympic teams? Is it really right that our teams, when they do arrive at international competitions, should be made to feel poor relations? I have always maintained that leisure, recreation and the facilities to enjoy them are the right of the community. But, additionally, in international events our teams have a right, too—a right of preparation equal to that of their opponents.
§ 5.46 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for tabling this Motion. I congratulate him on the comprehensive manner in which he introduced this debate. I am sure he needs no justification for introducing this matter 1202 to your Lordships' House, for two reasons. First of all, because the subject of sport touches, I suppose, more citizens than any other individual element in our national life, and therefore we are considering to-day matters which touch almost every man, woman and child in the nation. Secondly, because the changes in social attitudes and the atmosphere within which sporting activities take place are so rapid at present that it is desirable that from time to time your Lordships' House should take a look at this situation afresh.
We ought to remind ourselves of the rapidity of the changes which have taken place in our attitudes towards the playing of sporting games. It is not so long ago since the main emphasis was on playing games as a matter of personal recreation and health. It was dominated by those who had received their training at the public schools and the universities. It had a rather heavy larding of moralism, in that we were told that to indulge in sport was good for our health, good for the team spirit, and so on. It had a very strong snob element in it, since there were a great many sporting activities in which only those who belonged to a certain social stratum, or who could afford to do so, were able to take part in those activities. And the highest standards of performance were reached only by those who could give the time, and could afford to do so, and by the professional. The professional was suspect because he made money out of sporting activities. Therefore, he was regarded as a rather lower being than the amateur who played games for the purity and love of that particular sport.
Thinking of this atmosphere of sporting activities, which is not so very far behind us, we can see how enormous have been the changes. I do not think many of us will shed tears at the passage of the old system. Rather shall we rejoice in the fact that sporting activities play a great part in the entertainment of our people and that, through the activities of such organisations as the C.C.P.R. and the National Playing Fields Association, through the encouragement of a great number of individuals, it is now possible for vast numbers of younger and older people to play games which previously would not have been available to them. This is all to the good and is a matter for which we shall be thankful.
1203 But if the old divisions in sport have gone, is there not the possibility of new divisions, a new aristocracy in sport arising, coming no doubt from healthy reasons, but still very strong? For are not two of the most important elements in the present situation, first, the immensely improved standards of the top performances and of the training that is necessary to achieve them; and, secondly, the sharpness of international competition? These things require a much greater concentration than ever before, in order that people may pursue the standards of excellence which we all wish should be pursued from time to time.
But there is, therefore, a real danger of a division between those who are in the top class, and those who still want to play games just for the sake of doing so, and I think that this may have a very real effect upon the attitudes and the manner in which we play sporting activities in the future. It means, probably, that the all-rounder at the top of the scale is now a thing of the past, and it is unlikely that we shall ever see again a Lord Desborough or a C. B. Fry who can achieve excellence in a number of sporting activities.
It means also, I think, that those who indulge in sport at the lower levels will do so rather more lightheartedly than our forefathers did. Of course, the ordinary playing of sport will always be the feeding ground of the real experts. Nevertheless, I am very much interested to take note of what is happening in that sport in which I and my right reverend brother the Bishop of Lichfield indulged some 35 years ago. Incidentally, he was much too modest in recounting his own achievements to your Lordships. He won the Boat Race and I did not. Indeed, the first time we came into contact with one another was when he, an undergraduate, defeated me, a schoolboy, in a heat of the Ladies' Plate at Henley. In those days, and up till a comparatively recent time, college rowing was regarded as the feeding ground, the supply, for the higher standards of university rowing. A man's first loyalty was to his college. He rowed for the university if he was invited to do so and then went back in order to improve the standards of college rowing.
1204 But nowadays, so I understand, a promising freshman is immediately drafted into what is being called from American sources a "university squad", and he is there trained in the university crew almost apart from college rowing. I am told that there is, therefore, a much more lighthearted approach to college rowing. May it not be that the bumping race—perhaps the most excruciatingly unpleasant form of sporting activity ever conceived—will go back to those lighthearted days from which it sprang when undergraduates, having dined at Sandford Lock, had some frolics on the way home? I think this may illustrate something which is going on in sport generally. Indeed, I have heard that this may be having a deleterious effect upon the lower standards of sporting activity. I am told, for instance, that a great number of lawn tennis clubs are finding it very difficult to keep going, though the standards of lawn tennis at the top have so immensely improved.
Another consequence of this division may well be the disappearance of the awful problem of the relationships of the amateur and the professional. The division has been largely due to fear on the part of the amateurs. They have been afraid that the introduction of money into their sport may have deleterious effects. They have been afraid that the professional will be so much better that it would be unfair to ordinary amateur sportsmen if they were allowed to compete. But now, when you get this very high standard and then the rather lower standard of the ordinary person, I think the fear of professionalism and its harmful effects is rapidly disappearing.
I have a strong suspicion that we in this country would like to go a great deal further than we have so far been allowed to go. After all, the definitions of "amateur" in a number of sports have been very stupid in the past, and I think that nowadays most amateurs in most sports would be happy to compete on equal terms with professionals. But it is the brake which is placed upon our activities by some of the international bodies for sport which has prevented us from going further in this country. Therefore, I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, in applauding the Lawn Tennis Association for having the 1205 courage to break this ring, and doing something which I believe will add greatly to the health not only of lawn tennis, but of sport in general.
Finally, of course, this division in sport, if I am right in thinking that it is there, means that the financing of sporting activities must be on a dual level. First of all, we must be able to provide the very large finance that is necessary in order that we can provide the equipment with which those who are going to achieve the highest levels will have every opportunity. One thinks immediately of swimming pools, which are very expensive, and which have not always been placed in the most convenient spots for those who wanted to use them.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was very kind in referring to the first time I addressed your Lordships' House in the debate which he introduced on the Wolfenden Report in 1961. In that debate I reminded your Lordships that there were only two countries in Europe of major sporting significance which did not possess an Olympic or international standard course for rowing. They were Greece and Great Britain. I do not know how the Greeks are getting on; all I know is that, seven years later, we do not yet have an international rowing course in this country. I know that a great deal is being done about the Lea Valley project, and I hope that the Government will be, able to give the encouragement for which those concerned in this project are looking. But there is some urgency, and I hope that very soon we shall be among the other great sporting countries in this matter.
Equally, there must be continuing financial assistance, whereby those who cannot afford to take part in some of these rather expensive but very simple activities, such as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, described, are able to do so. Therefore, it was a great encouragement to me, as a member of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport, to hear that after some eight years your Lordships are still remembering what it was that we recommended, and wondering whether it was indeed the right way to go about this business.
I have never been able to understand the opposition to the suggestion which the Wolfenden Committee made about setting up a Sports Development Council, 1206 which would have the same relationship to a Minister of the Crown as the Arts Council has towards the Minister responsible for the Arts. I know that there are a great many complications in collating and relating all the sources of finance, and getting all the interested bodies together, but I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, in thinking that it is desirable that this should be lifted right out of the possibility of being a political issue, and I still believe that the way suggested by the Wolfenden Committee is the right way. I say that without any shadow of criticism of Mr. Denis Howell, of whom I have heard from everybody concerned the highest praise for the way in which he has looked after the interests of sport.
My Lords, I do not want to lapse into the moralism which was so notable a feature of sport up till a recent time ago, but I would, in closing, say this. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, was right in introducing this debate in our House to-day, because sport is now something much more than just finding a pleasant way to occupy yourself on an afternoon. In these days, and in the future, when we are going to have so much more leisure, and when the whole pressure of life is depersonalising the interests of the individual, I believe that sport will have a very real part to play in contributing to the happiness and the stability not only of our nation but of the individuals who comprise it.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ LORD COTTESLOE
My Lords, like every other noble Lord who has spoken I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for giving us this opportunity to discuss the state of British sport and the work of the Sports Council, and particularly for the enthusiasm and imagination with which his speech positively glowed. We have sometimes discussed in this House the part that the Arts can and must play in an age of increasing leisure; and although the increase in leisure may be temporarily set back by economic stringencies, none of us can doubt that the great increases that we have seen in the last two decades—and I do not think that the noble Lord the Leader of the House, in spite of what he said, would disagree with this fact—are only a start, and that the future holds the 1207 prospect of increases of leisure far greater still. In the best uses of that leisure the Arts have indeed a great part to play, but sports and games have a part no less important, especially among the young.
There is thus the analogy to which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and a number of other speakers have drawn attention between the work of the Arts Council and that of the Sports Council. Both exist to spread more widely among our people opportunities for the interests and activities with which they are particularly concerned—interests and activities that are vital to the growth of a wholly civilised community—and both are rapidly expanding. But the parallel between the two bodies cannot be carried too far. As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and other speakers pointed out, the Sports Council is without the £5 million recommended by the Wolfenden Committee, and we may deplore that. Speakers in all parts of the House have expressed the view that it would have been better had the Sports Council been set up on the pattern of the Arts Council—an executive body with funds at its own disposal. I support that view very strongly.
There is another difference of some importance. While the Arts Council almost exclusively subsidises professionalism—and rightly so—in order to maintain and raise standards of performance, the Sports Council concerns itself almost exclusively with amateur sport. I think the Sports Council is absolutely right to do this. But there is, as it seems to me, a lot of confused thinking about professionalism in many games and sports, as there had been for many years, until the other day, about amateurism in the game of lawn tennis. There is a very great diversity in this matter. There are some games and sports where there is a clear distinction between the man who earns his livelihood by them and the man who plays them solely as an enjoyable pastime. In cricket—that somewhat curious game that is almost confined to the British Commonwealth of Nations—the amateur and the professional have always played together happily enough on equal terms.
In some other sports—in boxing, in golf, in association football, for example—the distinction between amateur and professional is quite clear-cut, and there 1208 is also a difference in class, in the quality of performance. But, my Lords, in very many games the distinction is no more than a hangover from the past that has now ceased, at least in this country, to have any significance at all. In rowing, for example—and the two right reverend Prelates who have spoken know all about this—the days of the professional sculling champion whose prowess was his livelihood are long since past. The oldest aquatic race in the world, the race for Doggett's Coat and Badge, now more than 200 years old, was a race for professional apprentice watermen, but in these days it is raced for by amateurs who have to declare beforehand that they are not competing for the prize.
There are now no professional oarsmen in this country, in the sense of oarsmen whose prowess is their livelihood. But we still have an amateur qualification that has to be satisfied before an entrant is accepted for a regatta, although I am thankful to say that he is no longer debarred if—and I quote—he has ever been engaged in any menial employment".They are words which it took a good many years of patient work to get removed from the amateur definition. The fact is that, in rowing, the distinction between amateur and professional has long ceased to have any meaning in this country. It ought to be abolished, and I think it would have been abolished already if it were not for the requirements of international regattas, where it is necessary for British crews to conform.
In rifle shooting—the other particular sport with which I have all my life been closely concerned—there has never been any such distinction at all. No one earns his living by the practice of competitive shooting; and ever since the first rifle meeting at Wimbledon more than a century ago, where the Queen's Prize of £250 was first given, we have all shot for money prizes, the casual amateur and the professional armourer or gunsmith alongside one another on equal terms. But for the purposes of the Commonwealth Games, into which rifle shooting was introduced for the first time in 1966 —and your Lordships will not have forgotten the remarkable success of the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, on that occasion—it was necessary to get a special 1209 dispensation in order not to infringe the amateur rules of the International Shooting Union.
The fact is that in many games and sports the distinction between amateur and professional has become an anachronism and a nonsense. What the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, said about this was very much to the point; and I think the Sports Council would do well to look at this whole question—I know it is a pretty thorny one—to see what can be done to get it put on a more realistic and more rational basis.
If my understanding is correct, the Sports Council devote their influence in the main to three purposes: to British representation in international events; to the provision of coaches; and to the provision of facilities and equipment for clubs all over the country. I hope I am right in thinking that they also, on occasion, will give help towards the provision of central facilities. I think this is as it should be. So far as international events are concerned, there are moments when some incident embitters an international meeting and when one is tempted to wonder whether such affairs help promote harmony among the competing nations. But I am quite sure that on balance they help us understand one another.
When a team of Russian oarsmen first came to Henley Regatta some few years ago, it was natural that, emerging from a country where no one trusted his neighbour, or, indeed, sometimes even his own family, they should, in alien surroundings, be full of suspicion. They were sure that the draw for the Regatta was arranged to put them at a disadvantage; they were sure that every suggestion that was made to them must have had an ulterior motive, and their inevitable reaction was to object to everything. It was, of course, a diplomatic exercise when, as a result of the dock strike, there were difficulties in getting their boats unloaded and they withdrew their entry from the Regatta. It was not the team manager who took the action; it was a telephone message from the Embassy. When on the following day their boats were unloaded by volunteers and they wished to withdraw their withdrawal, again it was by a telephone message from the Embassy. It was all a little difficult. But after a year or two and after some 1210 brilliant successes by their splendid crews and scullers, all that changed; they began to understand us and we to understand them. They knew they had fair play and we saw them as friendly young men with superb physique and a great sense of humour. I had the interesting experience of being congratulated on successive days in identical terms by the American and by the Russian Ambassadors on the civilising influence of Henley Regatta.
My Lords, I am glad that help is being given to the admirable project for the Lea Rowing Centre at Spring Hill, Hackney. That has secured a great measure of support and enthusiasm locally and will now be able to go forward. That centre will provide good facilities for hundreds of young people who live around the River Lea. I hope that the Council will also use their influence to help the Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club, who are celebrating their centenary by building a new boathouse and a new centre for rowing opposite Greenwich. They are a club with a number of most promising young oarsmen on a part of the tidal Thames sadly lacking in good facilities for rowing. As the right reverend Prelate has said, British crews are handicapped by the lack in this country of a rowing course where several boats can row abreast over 2,000 metres, as is now the universal practice in the Olympic and European regattas. We may, I think, deplore the excessive standardisation of sport; but we must accept that this is how things are. I hope that the Sports Council's efforts, in conjunction with those of the Amateur Rowing Association, may at long last be successful in bringing into being such a course for our crews. It is very necessary if this country is once again to attain the highest international standards.
Finally, my Lords, I turn once more to rifle shooting. The run-down in the Armed Services and the modern pattern of military training has resulted in the closing of a great number of rifle ranges, both full-bore and small-bore, all over the country. Some of the rifle clubs that depend for their existence on these ranges are negotiating to take them over. I hope that the Sports Council will give them every assistance possible. I was brought up in times when the philosophy was that those who indulged in sport and games ought to stand on their own feet. 1211 In these days, when there is a far wider spread—and there is everything to be said for the widest possible spread—of those who practise these sports, the old philosophy can no longer apply; especially when sudden changes such as are now taking place involve, as they often do, large capital sums.
At Bisley, the old ranges which were built more than seventy years ago now need major replacement by modern facilities. The National Rifle Association and the National Small Bore Rifle Association, together with the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, are embarking on the creation of a national centre fully-equipped (not, as it now is, only partially-equipped) for marksmanship of all kinds. We are already in touch with the Sports Council and we are sure that we shall receive from them all the understanding and help that they can give us in this most important enterprise—important as it is equally from the standpoint of sport and from that of national defence.
We already receive from the Services—and value it highly—their most helpful assistance in the work of the National Rifle Association itself. We welcome at Bisley every year rifle teams from the Dominion of Canada, from the Canadian Army, from the Canadian Cadets and, from time to time, from Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, from many other parts of the British Commonwealth and also from South Africa and the U.S.A. We return these visits as often as we can—not, alas! as often as we receive them; but we hope that the Sports Council will assist us in putting that right. We are sending a team to Australia this year and we have good hopes of a grant-in-aid for that expensive expedition. No one who has experienced, as I constantly have, the friendship and good will generated by these exchanges of marksmanship in friendly rivalry, can be in any doubt of their value in promoting international harmony and understanding.
My Lords, I fear I may have indulged in a little special pleading, but the temptation has been irresistible. I congratulate the Sports Council on the application of their influence and I hope their work may greatly grow and bear good fruit. We have taught the world how to play golf, lawn tennis, football 1212 and other games. Now they generally—and I am not forgetting the World Cup—play them better than we do. The standards of to-day are far higher than they ever were in the past but, with the help of the Sports Council, I hope we may in the future at some time regain our old place at the top of the tree.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, the noble Lord who was going to speak now has scratched. I think he is ill. He cannot turn up to speak and I come in a step before on the programme. I would thank the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for having produced this very entertaining debate. There has been a lot of talk about pounds, shillings and pence in it, which did not make it quite so light as we had anticipated it would be. I wish to speak about a very small point, my Lords, and it should not take long—though when I speak I always take too long. It may take about eleven minutes, or nine-and-a-half. I wish to speak about one of the oldest sports which used to be called "man fighting", and which for many years was illegal when men fought with bare fists. Now, when gloves are worn, it is legal, it is called boxing and is an international sport. I may say that I am in favour of it, but there is a growing feeling, greater than one would suppose to be possible, that boxing is going a bit too far and should be made illegal.
I am surprised how this feeling has grown in the last few years, and I should like to explain to your Lordships historically, if I can, why it would be a very bad thing and a foolish thing ever to make boxing illegal. To do so I should like to go back into history and to explain, for a start, that in the 18th century fist-fighting was illegal at many public schools. The famous fight of young Wellesley—when he fought the whole afternoon, and beat a chap a good bit heavier than he was, and stronger—was illegal, and he could have been beaten for it. Years later, as your Lordships know, Wellesley said that the fight had such an effect on him that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton—referring to this fight in his youth when he was fighting at "Sixpenny Corner", which, as your Lordships will know, was later known as the "Gasworks". I know that this remark 1213 has often been attributed to the fact that people thought that all the officers at the Battle of Waterloo wore old Etonian ties, but that is what Wellesley meant. He fought for the whole afternoon, and stuck on and would not be beaten; and he managed to win, just as he did over Napoleon at Waterloo.
The most famous of all the public school fights occurred again at Sixpenny Corner in the 1830s. This again lasted all day. It was the fight between Ashley Cooper and Wood. It went on until it was stopped by the curfew toll at lockup. The seconds put Cooper's hands in gloves and muffled his face so that they could get him back to his lodgings and put him to bed. It has always been considered, I think, that Wood was the winner because Cooper died during the night. At the Assizes at Aylesbury, Mr. Justice Kersley attributed the cause of death to the amount of brandy given to Cooper by his seconds. That may be so, but it is also possible that the fact that Cooper was only just thirteen and Wood was over seventeen had something to do with it.
That fight caused consternation throughout the country. There was the usual thing—people taking different sides, some thinking that one was right and some that he was wrong. But you cannot make a thing which is illegal more illegal than it is, and fighting was already illegal and punishable by flogging. But schoolboy bare fist fighting came to an end not because it was illegal but because the boys themselves thought it had gone too far; and that is a most important point. Exactly the same thing happened about prize fighting. It went on for a long time and fights were well attended, until it came to the most famous of all prize fights that ever took place in the world. That was the fight between Heenan and Sayers, which as your Lordships will remember, took place on April 17, 1860.
There is a rather good account of this fight (I expect there is a copy in your Lordships' Library), but I have not read it for a number of years. It was written by an M.P., Locker Lampson, who wrote his memoirs. He was in the famous train which started at 4 o'clock in the morning—the one in which people travelled to the Hampshire field where the fight took place. Every sportsman in London was 1214 on that train, including Front Bench Ministers and Barons—the lot. They got to this field; the ropes were quickly put up, and Heenan threw his hat into the ring and jumped the ropes. Then Sayers saw him for the first time—five inches taller, two stones heavier and eight years younger; and Sayers just laughed. As your Lordships know, in the fifth round Sayers got his right arm broken, the famous arm which had been called, for obvious reasons, "the auctioneer". They shook hands at, I think, seven o'clock and finished soon after ten o'clock.
Towards the end Sayers fell over the ropes and his throat was caught by Heenan falling on top of him, and his face turned rather black. Some people shouted "foul" and others cut the ropes and loosed him. By this time the police had arrived, and the referee had run away. They formed another ring and went on fighting. In the end the public declared it a draw and stopped the fight. I meant to look at the print in the Library, but I forgot to do so, and it is now thirty years since I read Locker Lampson's account; but at the end he said something like this:When I saw Heenan's face pulped out of all recognition to a human being, I thought. 'This has gone far enough'".Actually, my Lords, I think that the Spanish Ambassador said it better of another sport, tilting, which has not often taken place in this country. He said: "If this is war, it is not enough. If it is a game, it is too much".
There is one note which I must put in, in praise of the sporting characters of the past. Heenan fought once more in this country before he went back to America, and Sayers came into the ring as his second to show that he had not thought there was a wilful foul in the fight between them. The prize ring came to an end, not because it was illegal—and it was strictly illegal—but because the sporting public thought it had gone far enough.
That was pretty well the last prize fight in England. There might possibly have been one more. My authority is a very old friend, a trainer who was rather difficult to understand. He had trained many sprint horses, and people would come to him just before the race and ask whether his horse was likely to win, but he liked to preserve such 1215 information for his owners. He had two little habits. One was that he put his hearing aid in his ear when he talked and took it out when he listened. He had a fund of sporting stories—including one which I think referred to a prize fight—which he very often told to people who asked whether his horse was likely to win. He told these stories so often that he became bored with them himself, and he would cut out great bits of them, so that they were difficult to follow. The nearest I ever got to this story went something like this:Well, there they were… Corn Exchange, Ely… foot to foot… a monkey a side… all there: Lily Langtry, Abingdon, Baird, Fred Archer—the lot. Well it was his brother…".My Lords, a lot of people did not know what they were doing in Ely Corn Exchange, but I had a good idea that they were having a prize fight. But whether or not they ever fought and whose brother it was, I never found out. But I think that if it did take place, it would have been the last prize fight in England,
Well, as your Lordships will know, glove fighting has come in and gone from strength to strength. It is very well run; medical aid is always present; the boxers wear proper bandages and there is good refereeing. Perhaps I should have declared by now that I used to be a very keen boxer in my youth—not very good, but full of fight. I trust that your Lordships do not think, after listening to this speech, that I am "punch drunk". That was over half a century ago. I have grown up since and the world has grown up, and young people do not think the same as they did in my day. It is possible that a feeling will one day come over the sporting public who attend boxing matches that boxing is going too far, and then it will come to an end. But it must never come to an end by law, because that would curtail the right sporting instincts and will of the people.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow, or try to follow, the noble Lord, Lord Strange. I only wished that he had given notice to the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, that he was going to speak in the vein in which he has spoken this afternoon, because 1216 then we might have had more entertainment than we have done so far. It can be irritating to hear anyone speak of a method of organisation which is not necessarily the correct one, but the advantage of this debate, for which we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is that we may have an exchange of views. May I submit a little information about the voluntary work of providing sports facilities in my own country? I do so with the slightly unnerving encouragement that I am sitting in front of my noble friend Lord Luke, under whom I have the privilege of being the County Playing Fields Association Chairman, and that I am to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, who is Chairman of the Eastern Regional Sports Council, the area in which I live.
About five years ago a married couple whom I know moved to a small Suffolk village. Soon a girl who helped with their children complained that she had nothing to do in the evenings. About the same time a builder started work on 100 new houses on a nearby site. It was obvious that a playing field and children's playground were urgently needed—though whether this was exactly what my friends' au pair girl had in mind was another matter. With the help of the County Playing Fields Association secretary and a county planning officer, a site was found. A village meeting followed which our Association Secretary advised to institute immediately a weekly money-raising draw and the formation of a community council which, being a voluntary body, unlike a parish council or any other local authority, could apply to the Government for a 50 per cent. grant. Through this help the village secured a football pitch, tennis courts, bowling green and children's playground, the latter not Government grant-aided but helped by a grant and loan from the National Playing Fields Association.
This is the sort of work which my own Playing Fields Association has been concentrating on since the Wolfenden Report on Sport in 1960. But once set up, responsibility for a community council falls squarely on the voluntary chairman and his committee. For them the volume of paper work can be colossal, the time spent seemingly endless. All our words of gratitude are too little for such people who do this work simply for the good of 1217 their own community. Similar community council schemes can be carried out in towns as large as those of U.D.C. status to provide larger facilities, such as swimming baths and sports halls of the sub-Olympic standard to which the noble Lord, Lord Luke, referred. But there are two essential ingredients for success. The chairman must ensure that he includes on his committee representatives of the U.D.C. and of the surrounding R.D.Cs. And, once constructed, an indoor, heated swimming pool, for example, will be hard put to it to pay its way unless the local education authority promises to be what I might call its "best customer".
The need for some sports facilities on the doorstep in developing villages and small towns (the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned squash, and the noble Lord, Lord Willis, mentioned badminton) is an increasing problem throughout at least Southern England to-day. But I think that the matter goes deeper than this. One day in the early 1920s two boys went to a sports club in North-East London for a game of table tennis. It was very hot, too hot to keep indoors. No one much seemed to be about, so they went out and picked up two old tennis racquets and started to knock a ball about. The name of one of those boys was Fred Perry. Perhaps it is not too fanciful to claim that at that moment a great tennis champion was born. Yet, if that club had not existed, Fred Perry's career would not have started in that way.
What is the link, if any, between this and sports facilities in villages? A few days before this debate I asked the chairman of a community council in a small village of about 750 people on the Essex-Suffolk border—it is one that is known to the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh—why he had sacrificed so much time to organising a village playing field. After referring to the need for it, he added, "To keep up our standards. We must practise. You see, out of the 17 lady members of our bowls club, during 1967 four of them represented England". To my astonishment I discovered that this was true.
I must apologise for inflicting a rather parochial outlook on your Lordships. Voluntary effort is vital in this field of sport. Not being grant-aided, smaller local authorities are wary of even considering 1218 new sports facilities, but it may be that joint provision by voluntary and statutory co-operation may be one answer to the problem. I was very glad to hear the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield mention this. There is nothing parochial, however, about the role of local education authorities in sport. Section 41 of the Education Act 1944 lays on every local education authority a duty to secure adequate recreational and cultural facilities for people over compulsory school age as part of further education. Your Lordships will be aware, I am sure, of the wide range of courses provided in evening institutes by local authorities. In my own part of the world, sailing is one sport which is catered for both in theory and in practice.
One chief education officer has told me of the tremendous impression he received when he visited Delphi last year. There, high above the Gulf of Corinth, close to the site of the ancient Oracle, is a running track, perfectly flat, hewn from the hill side. Nearby is a Greek theatre and a little farther the remains of temples. The ancient Greeks thought it perfectly natural that sport and drama should be combined with religion it their further education. I hope that to-day financial pressures will not persuade local authorities to cut this branch of the services they offer.
However, the real opportunity of education in sport is in the dual use of school facilities. I will mention this aspect briefly, because other noble Lords have already referred to it. I will not belabour the obvious difficulties: that grass pitches are subject to wear and tear; that school facilities are designed for children, not adults; that lighting and floor surfaces are often unsuitable, and that the presence of a caretaker is essential. May I follow the right reverend Prelate by suggesting four recommendations made by Lord Lindgren's Eastern Regional Sports Council Sub-Committee on Dual Use? Let local education authorities state clearly in their minutes a policy in support of dual use. Cannot central or divisional education departments have up-to-date information ready when people come to inquire? A fair reward for overtime should be paid to groundsmen and caretakers, neither of whom can work seven days a week. And 1219 why not explore the possibility of allowing adult sports associations to take over occasionally the work of supervision?
One opportunity which the reorganisation of secondary education will afford is the chance for local education authorities to build sports halls suitable for all ages. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned the sports hall at Bingham. Let us hope that flood-lighting will be introduced, though I am sure that noble Lords will agree that in the introduction of flood-lighting we have to be a little careful. In the North of my own county, at Beccles, the local education authority is proposing to do just this; and here once again the people of the town have banded together in a voluntary community council and are planning to add on, with the money which they have collected, adult facilities such as a car park, storage space and a kitchen. Given the good will and forbearance of the teaching service, opportunities for dual use must surely be brighter for the future than they have been in the past.
My Lords, I hope that what I have said has been in the spirit of trying to bridge the Wolfenden gap, about which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, spoke so eloquently. May I, in a few seconds, pay tribute to the National Playing Fields Association and the Central Council for Physical Recreation? We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Luke, that in addition to the grants and loans with which the National Playing Fields have helped to provide nearly 14,000 sports facilities up to date, the Association provides, free of charge, technical advice on layout and construction. The noble Lord was, I think, not able to say it himself, but recently the Association has made a great drive for playgrounds and "play leadership" schemes, which he mentioned. But what the noble Lord did not mention is that it is really selfless work, because if it is successful the local authority will usually take over such schemes.
My admiration for the dedicated staff of the C.C.P.R., who are providing the secretariat for the Sports Councils, is boundless. For the multitude of courses which the C.C.P.R. runs, if for no other reason, amateur sport of all sorts owes a debt of gratitude to the C.C.P.R. I am a little saddened, though, that despite 1220 representations the Playing Fields Association are allocated only one representative on the executive of each regional sports council. One of the great difficulties that regional sports councils face is that projects are discussed which depend on local authority money, and at the moment, as we all know, this is not very readily forthcoming. The Playing Fields Association, in its national capacity as a provider of practical help and money, and through its county associations which can act as a focal point with joint provision by statutory, voluntary and sports bodies, can make a greater contribution to the work of the Sports Council than has been allowed so far.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, referred to separating the chairmanship of the Sports Council from the position of Minister; and the noble Lord, Lord Willis, made a plea that the Sports Council should become the dispenser of Government grants. With respect, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, and the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, over this matter. At the moment—and I think I am right in saying that "at the moment" was the expression used by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—planning must be considered in deciding on grant aid and, indeed, in deciding on loan sanction. What Ministers need, I think, is advice on the sports aspect; and this in fact is what they are receiving now. Similarly if one took up the noble Lord, Lord Willis, on this point, and took him at his word, it would surely mean giving the technical panels of regional sports councils executive powers. I have the greatest admiration for my own particular technical panel in the Eastern Region, but I should not like to see technical panels deciding on the disposal of public money, and breaking off what at the moment is a dialogue (and this has been referred to also) between local authorities and the Government over sport. I am afraid that, with the greatest respect, over this matter I must fundamentally disagree.
In 1965, the regional sports councils were set up, and if your Lordships will bear with me for a moment or two more I should just like to say a word or two on them. In my own area, the Eastern Sports Council has achieved, I think, three 1221 things. First, it has brought home to the chief local authorities that certain departments must have an overall responsibility for sport. The noble Lord, Lord Luke, mentioned the sports committees on local authorities. Well, our Sports Council has done it as regards my local authority.
Secondly, local authorities have been made aware of the need to combine together, or with voluntary effort, to pay for sport—what we all call "joint provision". I hope that the county councils are also being persuaded of the absolute need for them to "chip in", if they possibly can, on any large-scale sports projects.
It is interesting to note that at Harlow contributions for the Sports Trust came from ten different sources, and that the County Council contributed £10,000 towards the sports hall there. Thirdly, an excellent job has been done in collecting surveys into existing facilities. For the first time, be it golf, athletics, flying or sports halls, we know what facilities exist and what populations they serve within a whole region, information which must be invaluable for future planning.
But two sports, in particular, I think, are going to cause considerable headaches in Southern England during the coming years. The popularity of golf is proverbial, and courses need so much land that it is almost unthinkable, from a planning point of view, if nothing else, for a private body to start a course from scratch unless a particular single block of land is going to be devoted to this purpose. Because of the increasing demand but lessening supply of suitable land, and because local authorities do not seem to be able to get these things "off the ground", is there not a case for specifically thinking of grant-aiding local authorities to provide golf courses? If your Lordships ask where the extra money would come from, my reply is that I think there is a case for abolishing—at any rate temporarily—grants to private clubs. While such grants are enormously appreciated, they are difficult to defend in principle in time of financial stringency.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Willis, made the point that work goes better if there is opportunity for sport. I live on the edge of a provincial town, Ipswich, which is expected to increase by a population of about 100,000 in the next twenty 1222 years; and sport must be part of this development. As research has shown that 56 per cent. of visitors to the East Coast come from inland counties, the newcomers will presumably flock to the water. Yet—and I imagine it is the same in Southern England—the yacht clubs of the four rivers in my county are choc-a-bloc full. I am sure that more launching ramps and beaches, possibly compulsorily acquired here and there by local authorities, are not the answer. Power boats and water ski-ers find inland stretches of water at gravel pits or reservoirs ideal, but these are in short supply. Otherwise, the answer must surely be strategically placed marinas, with good access both inland and to the open sea.
It is on the rivers with dangerous mouths, from which boats venture only infrequently, where solitude, beauty and wild life can so quickly become ruined. I was interested to note that the Regional Sports Council referred to the Suffolk coastline as:an area of great landscape value to be kept in its present quiet and remote state".Just before the war, the commodore of a yacht club on a Suffolk river was asked if the time had not come when the river mouth should be buoyed and marked. His reply was: "God has given us the most dangerous entrance in the British Islands. Let us do nothing to disturb the balance of nature."
By discussing the regional sports councils, I have been talking about one aspect of the work of the Sports Council, and having listened to so much expert opinion about the work of the central body, may I say what widespread gratitude exists for the increasing Government grants to governing bodies of sport for administration and coaching, and for the first grants that a Government has made for pre-Olympic training. Whatever distinction our athletes may achieve in the Olympic Games, there will always remain the age-old question: What is it that makes a champion? It was the indomitable Ben Hogan who once said that the secret of golf is to have a swing "which repeats". Examples of practice to perfection are legion in the annals of sport. Suzanne Lenglen was made by her father to aim at a sou piece placed on the service court on the other side of the net for hours at a time. The great American, Tilden, scratched a finger on some 1223 surround netting, which led to amputation, and only through constant practice was he able to recover his game. Our own champion, Henry Cotton, turned the tide of American golf domination by practising so assiduously that he developed curvature of the spine. Just before Roger Bannister—a member of the Sports Council Executive—made his great attempt to break the 4-minute mile at Oxford a vicious storm raked the track, and those sheltering nearby—of whom, I am ashamed to say, I was one—did not think it worth while even to go and watch. Yet Bannister and his colleagues had trained to a certain pitch, and when the moment came the record was his.
But, my Lords, without sports facilities, there can be no practice. In international sport the wonderful position held by Australia has not been achieved by accident. Years ago, a sports firm representative told me that as his 'plane came in to land one evening at Sydney or Melbourne, there below were countless games going on by floodlight. With our climate, we of all nations must concentrate increasingly now on all-weather surfaces, floodlighting and sports halls. It really would be a triumph if, one day, "Rain stopped play" ceased to be part of the vocabulary of sport.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, I suppose it is almost inevitable in a debate such as this, with a list of speakers who are so closely associated with their subject, that there should be a considerable amount of repetition. Apart from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strange, one by one I have been knocking out items that I had in the few notes I had made. But even then, with a number of items taken out, I am afraid there will be a little repetition in my speech, particularly after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who, as he said, works in the same region, the Eastern region, as I do.
Training for the use of leisure is a problem. My noble friend Lord Shackleton referred to the fact that, although we talk about greater leisure, in fact industrial working hours do not seem to have been reduced very considerably. I am afraid that that is true, and as a 1224 trade unionist I find it is one of the things that have hurt me most. We fought for shorter hours in order to get more leisure, and in fact it has meant shorter hours to facilitate more overtime. Much of that is due to the fact that the fellow on the workshop floor is not trained in the use of his leisure, and when he is not at work there is considerable difficulty for him in deciding how to fill in his time; and that is particularly so during winter months.
In the use of leisure, sport and physical training facilities should, and could, play a very big part, from athletics and team games and gymnastics for the young to bowls for the not-so-very-young. I have been rather surprised that in a House with a general age level such as we have in this House the one sport that has not been mentioned to-day is bowls. As one of the devotees of that game—it is, in fact, the only competitive game I can now play—I would say that it plays a very big part, not only in normal leisure for those who are still at work, but also, equally important, in filling in the leisure hours of those who have retired from work. There can be nothing so devastating for a poor fellow who has retired as not to know what to do to get out of the wife's way during daylight hours—and sometimes during the dark hours, too. Generally he has not the money to go down for the entertainment at the "local". It is far better that he should be on the bowling green, whether indoor or outdoor, than be there.
It is tragic, but I suppose inevitable, that in times of economic stress, economic difficulties, there should be a curtailment of expenditure on amenities, cultural and physical recreation projects. It is tragic because a cut in physical training and recreation to us to-day means an additional expenditure on the medical services and the hospital services to-morrow. Whenever discussing the question of sport and physical recreation, one must always remember that in fact the money spent on it is a contribution to not only the economic health of the country but the physical health of the individual, and therefore the physical enjoyment of the individual. It saves expenditure of money in much less useful directions.
In the past few years, as has been so often said this afternoon, the National Sports Council, the regional sports 1225 councils and the local sports committees have done a wonderful job in bringing together sporting organisations and those who are the providers of facilities for them—the local authorities. Mention has been made of the progress over the years in the facilities available and their standards. Some speakers have been reminiscing on how they used to play their games. As a Londoner whose school playground was just a few yards of tarmac, I recall that in order to play a game we used to go to Finsbury Park with a very enthusiastic teacher who gave his time voluntarily. Having dressed in the normal way beforehand, we took our outdoor clothes off and hung them on the railings; and when we had finished—without showers or anything like that—we put on our coats and trousers and went off home, wearing our sports trunks and football jersey underneath our outer clothing.
We have gone a long, long way since those days, and, as so many speakers have said, we have a great deal to be thankful for because of it. Much of the lack of facilities in those years, and in the period of time that it has taken to provide the facilities now available, has been due to the fact that there has not been sufficient contact between the sporting fraternity who play the games and the local authorities which, in the main, apart from private clubs, provide the facilities. That is chiefly due to the fact that members elected to local authorities are carrying out other voluntary jobs in their spare time after they have finished work, and it is all they can do, generally speaking, to keep up with legislation covering local authorities, attending committee meetings and deciding the policy of their local authority; and so far as sporting people are concerned, they again work in a voluntary capacity and spend their time running clubs and trying to get members and to keep them, and, when they have got them, trying to get the "subs" out of them. Thus, the people in both these groups had a full-time job, and they did not get together. Now, owing to the efforts of the National Sports Council, and the regional and local organisations, particularly the local organisations, these two groups of people have been brought together and are for the first time really understanding what is required of each 1226 other and trying to plan some sort of facilities for the area.
That brings me to the point that, tragic though the cut in the provision of sports facilities and physical recreation facilities would be if they were made to any great extent because of the present circumstances, it is an undoubted fact that we are not making the best use of the facilities which already exist—those facilities which the private club offers and which are provided by local authorities and, in particular, local education authorities. It is equally true that, in so far as the provision of sports facilities are concerned, the industrial organisations play a part. Now, for the first time, it has been made possible for there to be a co-operative effort between those groups of people in order that we can make good use of facilities.
Here I should like to pay a tribute to industry. Industry, from the point of view of the welfare of its own workers, has provided excellent facilities for its workers, and those workers, whether in football, cricket, bowls, athletics or whatever it is, are generally associated with their own county organisation. Therefore, it is much easier, so far as an industrial organisation is concerned, with workers within their own factory, associated with their county sports associations, to bring together outside bodies which require the use of those facilities and to arrange responsible supervision of those facilities within their industrial organisation.
But when it comes to the local education authority the position is a little difficult. Many noble Lords have declared an interest, and I must admit that I am mentioning this matter this afternoon because I have spent well over thirty-six years of my life as a member of a local education authority, trying to improve the educational facilities and the associated sporting facilities for the children attending the schools. One of the biggest problems facing us, as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and some other noble Lords have already mentioned, is that we are providing excellent facilities for all types of physical activity at considerable public expense in secondary modern schools, comprehensive schools, grammar schools and technical colleges. We are providing facilities for games, gymnasia and swimming pools, all of an exceedingly high 1227 standard. Yet, my Lords, in spite of that heavy capital public expenditure by the Treasury and the ratepayer, those facilities are not in any way used to the maximum.
I am the first to admit that there are considerable difficulties. Those facilities are there primarily for the use of the pupils at the school, but they are used by those pupils only in the daytime when they are attending school. In the evenings and at weekends they are unused, and anybody associated with industrial organisation will agree that the nearer one can get to twenty-four hour utilisation of capital the nearer one is to making a profit. Of course, we are not talking about making a profit, and we cannot get twenty-four hour utilisation of the physical recreation facilities, but we could make much greater use of them.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that a school caretaker has a responsibility for his school and a pride in his school, which is a very good thing, and that he is responsible to the headmaster of that school for its condition. He cannot work 14 hours a day, and he cannot work seven days a week. Then there is the problem of obtaining groundsmen. We talk about sporting facilities, but one of the tragedies of the sporting world to-day is that groundsmen are a dying race. It is much more profitable to be inside the factory than to be outside, making provision for those who want to play games. In particular, private clubs find great difficulty in obtaining groundsmen of any quality in order to provide or maintain the facilities of their club. Local authorities are in almost the same position, although with trade union conditions, sick pay, annual holidays and superannuation they are in a slightly better position to find groundsmen than the average bowls club and sometimes even the golf clubs.
§ LORD LUKE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I have been following his argument closely, and I would point out that the whole question of the use of facilities out of school hours is a difficult one, and is something which we have been trying to reorganise over a long period. Has the noble Lord not got a solution from his sports council? I know that caretakers can only work 1228 so many hours, but surely it is possible for the local inhabitants to subscribe enough money to provide a caretaker to look after the facilities when they are being used out of school hours?
§ LORD LINDGREN
Yes, my Lords; but one has no solution. All one can do is to try to provide some general pattern on which one can proceed. I said earlier that it is the responsibility of the education authority to provide facilities for the pupils of the school. It is the responsibility of the caretaker to protect the school and of the groundsmen to maintain the grounds, and the groundsmen cannot work longer hours.
As the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said, under the chairmanship of the Director of Education for West Suffolk, Mr. Hill, a working party was set up by the Eastern Region Sports Council in order to try to make a general outline proposal to get over this difficulty. Those proposals have been printed, and I will let the noble Lord have a copy with pleasure. At the moment Mr. Hill is discussing with his colleagues the possibility of putting, not the same general scheme into operation in each county, but a scheme built around the general proposal made by the working party of the Eastern Region.
The first essential is that the Chief Education Officer of the county must be in favour of it. Then as Chief Education Officer he must give a directive through his education committee, that in fact it is the policy of the council. He cannot do that unless he receives the support of his education committee. When that is done there should be, generally speaking, an organiser of the county whose job it is to work out the general proposals and to supervise the operation of those proposals throughout the county. In the localities there should be a representative or representatives of the L.E.A. on the local sports council in order that there shall be joint use of the facilities. That representative should generally be the physical training organiser, the sportsmaster or mistress of the school, or the youth officer.
Here let me say—and it is one of the few things that have not been said in this debate—that some of the most co-operative people in the sporting world are the physical education officers of county councils. They do a tremendous amount of voluntary work, outside their 1229 general work within the county and organising their own facilities within the schools, in liaison with private clubs and, mainly, in the clubs with which they are associated through the schools. I am certain that with the co-operation which we shall get from the physical education organisers and with the good will of the chief education officers and of the education committees, a great deal can be done in this sphere.
Much has been said about the gap. I think the noble Lord, Lord Willis, referred to it. If we can get dual use of local education authorities' facilities for recreation, it will make it easier for the transfer of the school leavers, the youth organisers and the sports clubs within the area. I have already mentioned the fact that industrial organisations are more and more placing their facilities at the disposal of sports clubs; and I have given the reason why it is easier for them to do so than it is for the education authorities.
While on the subject of general co-operation, I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, mentioned the co-operation between local authorities. It was also mentioned by others, and in particular the case of the Nottingham City Council and the Bingham R.D.C., to mention just one. The idea that within every local authority there should be the provision of every type of facility, and that because they cannot afford every type of facility they do not provide any, is all wrong. Local pride is a good thing, but in these days of facilities for transport in an affluent society, when everyone has either a motorcar or a motor cycle, travel is no deterrent to a person who wants to go and play any sort of game. Whether there is one large authority or several smaller authorities, or a group of smaller authorities alone, they can, by providing a sports hall or sports centre, make facilities available over a wide area which individually none of them could provide.
With some authorities we see exactly the same thing with the swimming pools. I am an enthusiastic swimmer. I have reached the stage now when I can only just swim; the days of competitive swimming have long passed. The local authorities now have gone to the other extreme. At one time we had no pools of any standard at all for really competitive 1230 work. Now all local authorities feel that they must provide not only a swimming pool of international standard, but also a diving pool with all the necessary requisites. While a large number of people want to swim and do swim and engage in competitive swimming, the number who want to engage in diving is comparatively small—I think the A.S.A. say about 4 per cent. All the specialised facilities could be provided over a reasonable area. It was of course wrong that Brian Phelps had to go to Cardiff to get a decent indoor dive, but by co-operation between local authorities something can be done.
The Government can play their part, and although the Government are the providers of finance and there is reason to believe that there is likely to be less finance in the next few months anyway, they can equally play their part in making available sporting facilities. In some directions they are not making it easier. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred to drill halls. The T.A., for reasons outside our control, is starting to be less operative than it was, and drill halls are becoming available for other uses. The standard and type of construction, and the facilities already within them, make them in the main ideal halls for sports centres in which a wide variety of sporting activities can be carried on at very little cost. It is true that it has been said that this will be considered, but when one comes to negotiations the obstacles put in the way, particularly by other Government Departments, seem to be very real.
There are also the disused aerodromes, which are ideal for some sports which are not welcomed in built-up areas—motor cycling, go-carting, land sailing, model aircraft—the type of activity where an aerodrome provides a glorious opportunity and generally has first-class buildings on it which could be made available for activities of that type. I do not expect my noble friend Lady Phillips to deal with that question to-day. In the Eastern Region we have an aerodrome at Duckworth which has been disused for over two years. When it became disused—and, of course, the buildings on it were of a very high standard, well worthy of the Royal Air Force, and centrally heated—the Eastern Sports Council entered into negotiations for the use of the aerodrome for the purposes I 1231 have outlined, go-carting and the rest. Now, two years later, the facilities are not available; we have not been able to get them. The worst part is that during that time these very excellent buildings on the aerodrome have deteriorated. Some of the deterioration has been brought about by vandalism, and if permission were given to-morrow for the use of the aerodrome a good deal of money would have to be spent on the reconditioning of those buildings; in fact some of them would have to be knocked down and rebuilt.
I apologise for having repeated or emphasised many of the points that have been made by others in this debate. I should like to conclude by again thanking my noble friend Lord Willis for giving us the opportunity for this debate and saying how much I appreciate the tremendous strides that have been made in the last few years in the sporting field, with Government assistance. I hope that that co-operation and assistance will continue.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, having listened to all the speakers who have taken part in this debate up to this hour, I have been impressed with the great way in which the Sports Council has carried out its obligations and duties to sport in this country. I want to speak with three hats. I will speak with a Commonwealth hat, perhaps a foreign hat and a hat of this country, because I want to say something about an aspect of sport to which I think we have not paid sufficient attention this afternoon. I am talking about sport which is played all over the world. I want to look outward from these islands and from these shores to the Commonwealth, particularly where I was for so many years, and to other lands in addition.
People from this country, British stock, went out overseas and played British games with overseas people, and those people became very skilled in British games: rugger, football, tennis, even swimming; and golf courses were laid out. Over the years, particularly while I was there, a space of 27 years in duration, those people came to beat us at most of the sports which we had taken to those areas from these shores. When 1232 I went to the Federated Malay States, now Malaysia, in 1928, there were playing fields in every Malay village up and down that country, and in many ways they were superior to the British playing fields that we had in this country. Those playing fields are there to-day.
Something, perhaps, which is rather endearing about British people when they leave these Islands is the fact that, wherever they go, they seem to make British gardens with very beautiful lawns, and in no time they are establishing playing fields where the ordinary English games can be played. There is some truth in the adage which Noel Coward has put out to the world thatMad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.We did not go out in the midday sun; we played our games on the Equator in the evening, but even then the temperature was about 75 or 80 or 90 degrees. One sight which always remains in my memory about those games was the scene which one might often see in the evening time, of Malays playing football in bare feet against a Chinese team, the Malays rolling up their skirts between their legs and kicking the football with considerable force. No wonder that over the years Malays and Chinese have become such wonderful exponents of the game of football. I do not know whether it is known in this country that when we won the World Cup for soccer over here there was tremendous interest throughout Malaysia in that event.
With all this heritage that exists abroad, what are our leaders in sport in this country doing about it? Is there not an opportunity here, with this heritage left behind overseas, for vision, for action on the part of our Sports Council, for some dynamic figure of sport in this country to cash in on all this that we have left behind and all this which is common to the people of this country and the people of these other countries? These are some of the things which I think are visionary, which are dynamic, which a leader of sport in this country could put to good use at the present time, and which could be used for peaceful purposes throughout the world.
I should like to say something about what I believe the Sports Council should be thinking of doing at the present time 1233 in the direction in which I myself am thinking. Not only is it right and patriotic to win for one's country, but in every sense when any of our teams go abroad from Britain they are ambassadors carrying with them the name of our country and its reputation. If it is possible, I should like to see an arrangement whereby teams going abroad should read of the customs, the activities and the interests of the country which will be giving them hospitality. Perhaps it may be possible for the Central Office of Information to show films of the country to which our teams are going. If this were done, I believe that it would make for a better and a more common understanding between our people in this country and people overseas. And if that is achieved it will be of great benefit, not only to us and the Commonwealth, but to the world generally.
In another debate which took place some three or four months ago the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, was talking about satellites and how communications and boundaries between this country and others were getting ever closer together. And he said that it would be only a matter of time before we should be able to see people playing tennis in Australia and, in a flash, what people were doing in England at the same time. All the more reason why, at this time, through sport, and our contacts coming closer and closer together, we should be thinking about this now and doing something about it!
The noble Lord, the Leader of the House, is not at present here, and although we have kept controversial issues out of this debate I hope that what I have to say at this moment will not be considered controversial. But this is my own personal belief. I think that we should try to take international politics out of sport. By that I mean that I do not agree that when we in this country have a disagreement with another country this should debar our international teams from visiting the country with whom we have a dispute to carry out some exercise in the form of a game or sport. My impression of sportsmen is that they do not talk about politics. Probably the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, who is to follow me, and who was captain of the English rugby team for many years, has some stories to tell us of what inter- 1234 national rugby teams talk about when they are having their bath after a game at Twickenham. My impression is that sportsmen do not talk about politics. They meet together and talk about everything under the sun, but not about politics. Meeting together is the way to create good will and friendship. If that can be established, then international politics, and politics, will sort themselves out. For that reason, I am sorry that it was not possible recently to send out plough teams to Rhodesia, and that last year it was not considered politic to send the Yorkshire cricket team to play cricket in Rhodesia.
Talking about people and our association with them, I think that all noble Lords will remember for a long lime a lesson in good manners which was given to us, or an example shown to us, by a distinguished Chinese who appeared on television and whom I know personally. He was here only a few weeks ago. He is Mr. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. He set a fine example of how all of us should act when being pressed to answer questions which are awkward, or when under pressure generally. I call attention to this merely to illustrate to the youth of our country the way a man behaves when he comes to our country, and to point out to them that if they can behave in a similar way, either in sport or in other ways when they go abroad, this will not only bring credit to them but bring credit to the country which they represent.
My Lords, I have not much more to say, but I should like to say a word about the responsibility of sound broadcasting and television. When I was abroad the B.B.C. sound broadcasts were more respected than any other broadcasting system which was working in other parts of the world. I believe they have that reputation to-day. The reason is simply this. They were believed because they were objective. They were factual. They did not take sides. They told the correct story. They gave the correct picture. They gave the pros of one situation and the cons of the other situation. They left one to judge the situation for oneself. This is great credit to the B.B.C. in sound. I am convinced that that reputation stays with this country to-day. So much for that.
Television recording of sport produces a factual record of events happening at 1235 the time when they occur. Nevertheless, there is the danger of a person offering his opinion, and giving a slanted opinion at that. I emphasise these things because we have television at international sports meetings, and sometimes I feel that our television authorities do not realise the damage they can cause to international feeling if they go over the bounds of what is common propriety. On the whole, I think they do a pretty good job.
I come now to the Press of this country. When I think of the Press of this country I wish to be particularly outspoken at the present time. I think that the Press of this country has sunk to about the lowest levels that it is possible for newspaper reporting to sink. What I particularly wish to draw attention to in this direction, in respect of factual recording and factual objectivity, is the publication, with no explanation for it, of that dreadful picture in the newspapers of the Vietnam police officer in South Vietnam shooting a Viet Cong. I cannot for the life of me understand the reason for its publication. Was it to bring that country, South Vietnam, into the contempt of this country? Was the object to make us here hate South Vietnam? What indeed was the reason for its publication at all? Was it to show that we in this country would not do anything like that?
In the last war—I do not tell this story with any pleasure—that sort of thing happened, and it was an experience which I saw for myself. In Malaysia, when the British were retreating South of where I was living, and when those who like myself were colonial servants had decided to stay in the country, some of us were deputed to be interpreters for the Chinese population or any Malays who happened to be there. One night I was in a police station and a young man was brought in off the streets by a British military policeman. The young man was told to sit down in a chair in front of me, and I went on with the interrogation and tried to find out why he had been out.
In the meantime, the British military policeman stood behind my chair, and I asked this boy some questions. From the answers he gave me, I believed him to be quite innocent. Then there was an almighty shot, and this chap was killed. 1236 In the years that followed I tried to reason what went on and what was the reason why this policeman carried out such a dreadful act. The reason really was that in countries abroad, countries like Vietnam—and Malaya is not dissimilar to Vietnam—that sort of thing will happen when you get people changing from military uniforms to civilian clothes, and when you do not know who is friend and who is foe. When they are terrified in such circumstances, people do strange things. But I say to the British Press that I think they might have given some reason for publishing that dreadful picture.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? Is he suggesting that this picture appeared on the sports pages?
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has quite rightly raised that question. What I am saying is that if you are not factual in your observations and factual in your reporting, both internationally and in sporting events, you can do enormous damage. What I am hoping is that, through the medium of sport, we shall assist the cause of peace in the world.
I will say one final word about this matter. When I was a very young boy, about five years old, I happened to be on the North-East coast of Yorkshire. I remember walking with my father, who was a distinguished member of another House, and I was holding his hand. Everybody looked very serious and glum, and they were talking about a great naval battle. The year was 1916, and it was the Battle of Jutland. At that time Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was the Admiral-in-Chief of the British Fleet. He was the distinguished father of a distinguished son, my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who is a Member of this House. I remember that in that battle there was a battleship with the name of H.M.S. "Malaya". When I went out to Malaya I saw on the shelves of one of the pubs there a cup inscribed "The 'Malaya'." I made it my duty to find out all about it. I discovered that before the First World War the peoples of Malaysia had subscribed £5 million in sterling to buy a battleship to fight for Britain.
§ LORD ARWYN
My Lords, with all due respect to the noble Lord, what has that to do with a debate on sport?
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, I am prepared to answer that question. I saw a cup out there which was presented by H.M.S. "Malaya" to the Malayan people for the game of rugby. Out of that great battle came a rugby football competition which is played each year in Malaya—it is really the "Twickenham" of Malaya. The States and the Federation take part in the competition, which has gone on from that day to this.
I have just given your Lordships a few reminiscences of sport. I believe that through sport we can build a great future among the peoples of the Commonwealth and elsewhere, if we use imagination. We have a common heritage which we can build upon. We need a great inspiration on the Sports Council to-day, and if that inspiration comes then our debate will have been well worth while. Once again may I say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for initiating this debate.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, at this late hour I will do my best to confine what I have to say to British sport and to the work of the Sports Council. I have made many friends and have had a great deal of fun playing games and enjoying recreational facilities throughout my life. In latter years I have been greatly privileged to be president of certain national sporting organisations and clubs, and in that capacity I have tried to help provide opportunities for others to enjoy what I have enjoyed. Therefore I very much welcome this debate and the opportunity given to us to discuss sport. Like other noble Lords, I would commend the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for his initiative in introducing this debate, and for his interesting and constructive speech. I hope to take up in my speech some of the points which he made.
A few days ago I re-read the report issued by the Sports Council rather more than a year ago to see if I could find out how they defined "sport". Although the report again and again referred to sport, any definition of sport was carefully avoided, and so I, like the noble Lord, Lord Willis, went to a dictionary. I looked at Murray's Enqlish Dictionary in your Lordships' Library and I found between six and seven columns devoted to the definition of sport, with a number 1238 of additional columns on words connected with sport, such as "sporting" and "sportive". In the effort to define "sport" the dictionary gave a quotation from the year 1819–150 years ago—as follows:She may be seen, when highly dressed, sporting her fine figure at her balcony.Perhaps the Sports Council are wise in not trying to define "sport". But, be that as it may, we have come a long way in the last century and a half, because now all over the world women of all ages can be seen sporting their fine figures, lightly dressed, on the tennis court and the athletic field, in the gymnasium, in the swimming bath, on the beach, and indeed, in most athletic pastimes.
I was interested to learn that at the new Billingham Forum, opened by Her Majesty the Queen last October, which, with its wide range of indoor activities, got off to a wonderful start, the pressure on the parking space is more intense for prams than for cars, so keen are the "Mums" to join in the recreational activities that can be enjoyed at that community centre. It was after the First World War that women began actively to participate on a really large scale in games and athletic activities. This has given a great stimulus to those recreational activities which both sexes can enjoy together. But there are some games where this is not possible, and in such cases I should like to pay a very warm tribute to the wonderful way in which the ladies rally round their husbands, brothers and boy-friends, in making the club-house such an attractive social centre. The invaluable help they give in the club-house, as well as their support on the touch-line, adds immeasurably to the success and enjoyment of the playing of those games which are only, or mainly, played by men.
It is interesting to note that what might be described as the growth sports are all pastimes which the two sexes can enjoy together. As an example, I take water ski-ing. It is estimated that there are some 7 million water skiers in the United States and about 70,000 in the United Kingdom. The British Water Ski Federation, after the United States, is the second largest of the forty-four National Water Ski Federations in the 1239 world. It therefore ranks after the United States of America.
Last autumn, a young London University student, Jeanette Stewart Wood, equalled the women's world record jump of 106 feet, and was the first European to win a world championship on the other side of the Atlantic. For the first time, this year's water ski-ing European championships are being held in this country in August, at Prince's, near London Airport. Cross-Channel and long-distance races on the sea are becoming increasingly popular, and this year for the first time there will be regional competitions ending up with a National Championship.
These new and developing sports are greatly helped by being sponsored by industrial firms, such as Wills Tobacco, and by newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph, whose support has been quite invaluable to our snow ski-ing girls. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in wishing them all possible luck at the Olympics now taking place at Grenoble. If ever girls deserved success they do, for the intensive way they have trained, not for a few weeks, not for a few months, but for two or three years, summer and winter alike, going down to Aldershot for physical training, weightlifting and all those kinds of things, to make them strong and physically fit to enable them to ski well and, we hope, gain a medal for this country.
This brings me to the part that television plays in furthering sport. There is no doubt at all that seeing sporting events on television makes people want to go and see the real thing and, if they are young, to participate. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, spoke at length on this subject, and I agree with his views on how television can help the lesser-known sports. I did not quite understand his references to the small amount of time given by the B.B.C., because, as I understand it—and I think it is quite remarkable—the B.B.C. is devoting over 1,000 hours, or nearly 25 per cent. of the total viewing time, this year to the coverage of sporting events. The B.B.C. would probably not be doing that unless they considered there was a big demand for it. I am delighted, because in addition to more watching, I am quite sure that it will mean more participation as well.
1240 I do not know what Independent Television are doing, except that an excellent step has been taken in appointing Mr. John McMillan as Director of Sport for Independent Television. They are in a difficult position. They are like a team whose manager has said to them, "You are a fine lot of chaps." But having said that, he then proceeds to sack the best players and, after generally messing the team about, picks up the players' boots and taking them with him walks into the other side's dressing room as their new manager, boots and all, and says to his new team, "All right, boys, I have got the other lot taped."
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, has pointed out that the B.B.C. have secured for themselves a monopoly for several years in televising certain sporting events. Like the noble Lord, I think this is regrettable and not in the best interests of sport. I, too, hope very much that neither for the B.B.C. nor for I.T.V. will there be a continued monopoly in any sport. Competition is a healthy thing. I therefore wish Mr. McMillan and his team every success in widening, extending and improving I.T.V.'s coverage of sport, because—again like the noble Lord, Lord Willis—I firmly believe that that will not only not hurt the B.B.C. but, what is of far greater importance, will greatly benefit sport.
If a week or two ago your Lordships had asked me how many governing bodies of sport there are in this country, I should have said perhaps 40 or 50, but I should have been badly out in my estimate. In actual fact, there are 160, and this shows the diversity of sport and recreational opportunity that is now available in this country. I should like to congratulate the Sports Council on having made contact with all those bodies and having asked them for their 5-year development plans. I think the House must be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, for all the information she gave us on the progress of the Sports Council, which I think is most encouraging.
I agree with her and with other noble Lords, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that the Sports Council should have executive responsibility and with it, of course, accountability responsibility for the monies entrusted to it in the way that money 1241 is disbursed. Congratulations should also be given for the way in which the regional sports councils have made their initial appraisals of major sports facilities—sports halls, swimming baths, stadia, golf courses—so that there is now a complete picture of the distribution of these important and costly facilities throughout the country. With this basic information of actual facilities and estimated needs, I hope that such money as may be available for sports and recreational requirements will be able to be wisely spent and, what I think is important, in the right priority.
I very much hope that, in spite of financial stringency, the modest grants that are made to voluntary bodies to help them purchase or improve their grounds and pavilions will continue. I can think of no better investment for taxpayers' money. It is a case of God helping those who help themselves, because grants are not made unless the club receiving the grant has also found, and is finding, a substantial amount of money for its ground or pavilion.
Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield, the noble Lord, Lindgren, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and others, I have felt for a long time that much more should be done, and indeed could be done, to get far greater utilisation of the recreational resources already available. I am therefore glad to learn that the Sports Council is devoting attention to this problem which, as I see it, is mainly administrative, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, explained in quite full detail to-night. When I was President of the Rugby Football Union, I urged Rugby clubs to do all they could to help schools who needed playing facilities, and this was taken up. But a number of clubs who gave the help required had to discontinue giving that help because of very real administrative difficulties, which is a great pity. With the shortage of land in or near urban areas, and the high cost of construction of the facilities needed, rich dividends will surely be earned by the greater utilisation able to be obtained if only those administrative problems are solved. I am quite certain that if they are tackled energetically they can be solved.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I was greatly interested in the address given by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington 1242 —who, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, was introduced to your Lordships to-day—at the annual general meeting of the Central Council for Physical Recreation. In that address, the nobly Lord, Lord Pilkington, drew attention to the fact that, because of changed conditions, there was no longer the same need as there used to be for the provision by industrial firms of recreational facilities for their employees, and that in consequence there was in all probability considerable under-utilisation of what were generally first-class facilities. He then went on to urge the integration of business or industrial firms' recreational facilities with those of the local community. It is in this direction, my Lords, that the Sports Council could, I think, be a most helpful catalyst, particularly now that it has at its disposal the St. Helens Study Group's report on this subject.
My Lords, there are in this country some 64 racecourses, of which quite a number are readily accessible. These racecourses, and the buildings connected with them, take up a lot of land, but their utilisation is small. Has any real attempt been made to see what can be done to obtain better utilisation of the land and the facilities of the buildings for other recreational purposes when racing is not taking place? If an attempt has been made, what has been the result? If no attempt has been made, could not the Sports Council set up a study group to inquire into this matter? The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, drew attention to the increasing need for land for golf clubs. Could not perhaps some of this land be used in some way for golf courses as well as for racing? I do not know. But it seems to me that that aspect of the matter might well be looked at, and that something of advantage might be worked out.
From under-utilisation I pass for a moment to the fact that there are some places where there is congestion and a real need to sort out the various recreational activities, so that each person can enjoy his particular sport without interfering with others. At certain seaside resorts, estuaries and inland lakes and waters there may be sailing, water ski-ing, angling, sub-aqua activities, swimming, canoeing and boating all taking place at the same time and in the same area, which may be quite restricted. In 1243 some places it is becoming urgent to sort out the conflicting interests that are arising, and I suggest that this is a matter on which the Sports Council, through its regional and local councils, could do a splendid job of work. Even in a restricted area there is no reason at all why the various recreational pastimes should not all be enjoyed at the same time, provided that all parties have been collected together so that the difficulties can be discussed and sorted out, and an adequate administration set up which can voluntarily enforce the regulations agreed upon. This has been happening in the United States of America, where they are finding satisfactory solutions; and it is now beginning to become a very real and urgent matter in this country.
At this very point of time, an experiment is being tried out on Dun Fell, in the Pennines, where recently there was a record gust of wind. It so happens that there is a gulley on that fell which is about the best ski-ing place in England. That gulley also happens to be in an area of great scientific interest to the Nature Conservancy, who did not want the ski-ers about. It so happens, my Lords, that I was once a member of the Nature Conservancy, and I am now President of the Ski Club of Great Britain. I did my best to be a catalyst, and, as a result, an experiment is being tried out, with good will on both sides, to see how the skiers can enjoy their ski-ing without spoiling the Nature Conservancy's scientific interest in that area. This, I believe, is an excellent example of the kind of conflict of interest that is bound to arise more and more, though it is hoped that it will be possible to resolve it by understanding and good will, particularly if the Sports Council can take a hand at an early stage through local sports councils.
Another example is the conflict of interest that has arisen between those enjoying sub-aqua activities and inshore fishermen. Only recently some sub-aqua club members were carrying out some important underwater research work on marine life when they were assaulted by inshore fishermen who resented their being near their lobster pots because they might catch the lobsters before they entered the pots. Here again is a new, rapidly growing sport, and the Sports 1244 Council could help in overcoming this sort of problem. The British Sub-Aqua Club was formed only just over 14 years ago, and it now has 282 branches in the United Kingdom. The latest membership number issued was No. 48,400, which means that nearly 50,000 people have been trained by the British Sub-Aqua Club either in snorkeling or sub-aqua diving, which can be extremely dangerous for novices, and even for experienced divers if they are careless or do not carry out the rules laid down for safe diving.
In conclusion, there is the gap, which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, called "the yawning gulf", of the boy leaving school who is not old enough to play with men in team games. In recent years the Rugby Football Union, through its clubs, has been making great efforts to try to organise colts sides so that these boys can join in club activities, train in the evenings and occupy their leisure time usefully, instead of hanging about and perhaps making a nuisance of themselves. This, my Lords, is where television can help. Perhaps, after a sports showing, there could be a notice giving the address of the nearest regional sports council, with brief details of how it can help in sport participation. I feel sure that this means of communication is just one of the ways of closing that gap, particularly if it can be linked with the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, earlier to-day, for the young would be encouraged to participate as well as to watch. And if this debate can in any way help in securing this desirable object, then, my Lords, our time will not have been wasted.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ LORD ARWYN
My Lords, one advantage of being at the end of the queue is that one finds one can cut down on one's speech because all the good things have been said before. We are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Willis for this all-Party debate, and particularly for his emphasis on the problems of the 15-year-old school-leavers. As the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, pointed out just now, they are often frustrated by lack of opportunity to play and by having no outlet for their natural aggressiveness. It is also a great privilege to follow such a lion of sport as the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, who was one of my heroes for many years although he played for England.
1245 The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, made a reference to the Italian Government's method of finding money. In view of the definite statement made by my noble friend the Leader of the House that the Government will not provide the extra money needed in the near future, if we are to tackle this problem we have to explore what other means are available to raise this money. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, was very concerned with anything which would lead to a stopping of developments now under way.
Increase in income and in mobility has enabled many more to indulge in a greater variety of activities. The urge to participate is greater than that to be just a spectator. In a speech I made in your Lordships' House on November 7 last year, I referred to two Midlands businessmen who drive a round journey of 550 miles most weekends during the summer in order to have two day's sailing and fishing. This was an illustration of what people were prepared to do in order to achieve relaxation. During yesterday's debate on the Cairngorms the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield, described ski-ing as a sport which it was possible to continue and enjoy to a ripe age. Sailing is another, and one which has developed enormously in the last ten years, due again to increased income and mobility. I can recommend it to anyone who is too old to play rugby or squash.
On May 18, 1966 the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, initiated a debate on the White Paper, Problems of the Countryside. He referred to the opportunities available to private enterprise in the field of recreation and said that it would be a great deal easier and cheaper if the ideas could be implemented otherwise than through public funds; but that if the purchase of land for recreational purposes was necessary then compulsory purchase should be used only as a last resort. The noble Viscount also stated that people will and must pay for their pleasure. I am still in complete agreement on those two points. In my speech in the same debate, I suggested that the present Minister for Sport had limited powers, and that before we were very much older we would need a Minister for Recreation. I am more convinced than ever of this need if we are to preserve the interest of our young people. Even 1246 with the maximum development of outdoor sports facilities we can cater for only a relatively small proportion of our people; but the development of indoor sports centres is unlimited except by the cash required. In these centres we can cater for every member of the family with activities ranging from vigorous "Jeux sans Frontier" competitions to the more leisurely ones.
It is becoming evident that the Government are going to be involved to a greater extent than was first realised, especially at a time when it is necessary to reduce expenditure. The fruits of development and research cannot be left to die. We are told that the turnover in betting and gambling is around £2,000 million. Few of us have been free of the itch to have a flutter—even if it is only the purchase of raffle tickets for a church bazaar. As a boy I was taught that gambling was a sin. Later, I realised that I was a sinner by buying shares on the Stock Exchange over which I had no more control than if I had backed a horse. I soon compromised with my conscience.
Few of us need worry if the proposed Amendments to the Lottery Act are successful. If the proposed lottery for the benefit of medical research is successful and the medical profession can benefit from such a lottery, then why not sport? The doctors will have far less work to do if recreation reduces tension and provides an outlet for natural aggressive qualities. I therefore suggest that we examine our consciences to decide whether the benefits from an alleged vice cannot outweigh the alleged sins of investing in a lottery which could benefit hundreds of thousands. After the allocation of prize money, we should have considerable sums available for the purchase of all the facilities that we have talked about to-night. From such a fund the road to the Cairngorms, for instance, might not be dependent on a raid on the Ministry of Transport fund. Let us have a chance to pay for our pleasure. All it needs is the altering of the Lottery Act or a new one. I regard this as the only solution to meet a demand which is inevitable. It will save us from the ignominy of "too little and too late". It is our prior duty to do everything in our power to enable our young people, especially, to grow up as healthy participants and 1247 not frustrated spectators. If lotteries are a sin, let us suffer the penalty gladly.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, my brief contribution to this debate is in three distinct and unconnected parts. First, as one who, as your Lordships know, has had special cause to worry about youthful delinquency, approved schools and their cost, I speak strongly to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, in his wide-ranging opening speech, about what he called "the gap", and especially that part in which he drew attention to the desperate need for recreational facilities for young people. Like him, I go further and say, for children. Surely, apart from anything else, it is far more economical for the community to provide recreation for the formative years than to be compelled to provide reformation accommodation later on. Of course the Wolfenden and Albemarle Committees have touched on these points, and one need not go further into them.
I believe that more recreational facilities are needed both indoors and outdoors—and especially indoors, as the noble Lord pointed out—to give young people somewhere to go in the winter evenings. The Dutch barn idea is a first-class one and can be extended. We in our own village have profited enormously from increasing the size of the village hall to accommodate an excellent badminton court, and carpet bowls in winter as well. What is more, such accommodation provides facilities for Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, the Boys' Brigade, indoor athletics and so on. And such investment unquestionably pays great dividends. As the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, something must be done to fill "the gap" and we shall hear more about this in a fortnight's time when we discuss the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson.
But the point I want to make is that I believe too many parents—and the attractions of the "goggle box" are much to blame—skimp their own responsibilities anent the training of their children in using recreation in the proper way and in dealing with their leisure. I inquire to what extent it is possible for publicity material in this respect to be circulated by the Ministry of Social Security to those who are in receipt of family allowances; 1248 in other words, to draw to their attention the fact that it is the parents' responsibility (especially during "the gap", the last year of the family allowances) to see that leisure is being properly used and to help their children find the facilities for such leisure to be spent in a creative way.
My second point, my Lords, is quite different, and relates to the responsibility of the Press and broadcasting. When the House was debating the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, in 1965, I was struck by the fact that there was, to me, a sense of unreality about the debate, in that so little reference was made to that side of sport which the noble Lord, Lord Snow, in his concluding speech, described as,all the things that are not organised games and are done in the open air".This debate has not been so short of references of this nature. More has been said about that to-day, which is all to the good.
But must the Press (this point has been touched on though not made with the force with which I wish to make it) give so much coverage to soccer? Must they splash stories about pool winners; about vast transfer fees for footballers, and stories about the private lives of professional players and so on—sensation after sensation after sensation? I do not for a moment contest that the game is a splendid one and is played faster to-day than it has ever been played. But does it really take such a share of the attention of all the sporting people in the country as we are led to believe by the coverage it is given? Or has the fact of the vast sums of money involved upset the judgment of the Press? I do not call filling in a pools coupon a sport—I sometimes wish that I did. But could not the Press condemn more bitterly the hooliganism and vandalism which seems to go so much with association football? The cost to the community of police supervision, traffic disruption and damage to property and so on, seems to many to be out of all proportion to the worth of the game as a sport.
At the same time, field sports get very little Press coverage, considering the large number of people who are interested in angling, shooting and hunting. These sports get plenty of criticism, largely from people whom I regard as 1249 ignorant or bigoted, or both. I sometimes ask myself, "What is wrong with the 'grouse moor image'?" I suppose that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor might say that it was a Conservative Press that poured scorn on the last Prime Minister and talked about him having a "grouse moor mentality". Talking of grouse moors, only yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, pointed out that grouse shooting goes hand in hand with sheep farming, and I think it fair, when considering field sports, to remember that game and fish might be regarded as "crops". Like anglers, those who shoot grouse do not involve the community in expense; they do not harm each other or anyone else, and they do not smash up railway trains.
Another point, my Lords, is that they provide employment for a large number of men, like those hardy, skilled, responsible professionals, the ghillies and the keepers. I feel that they should not go unmentioned in a debate about sport. Both Press and broadcasting could be much more sensibly balanced and informative on the whole subject than they are. For instance, the other day, when reference was made to the frustration and losses which the foot-and-mouth epidemic has brought to gamekeepers, in one of the programmes—I think it was "The World At One"—the broadcaster (I wonder how many people shuddered) referred to gamekeepers as a "class" and said, "I must say that my heart does not bleed for them", or words to that effect. Of course, he might have been a poacher, but I do not think so.
Let us have better understanding and more informed publicity from the mass media for this side of sport. There are so many facets to it: equipment, guns, clothing, rods, tackle, flies and all the winter interests which go with the preparation for the coming season. What about horses and dogs and their breeding and training? What greater anodyne than the training of a young horse or a puppy? I am reminded of a General with whom I once served. He came from Ireland, and one of the things he said to me was: "Take my advice, young man; if ever you are in trouble, buy a young horse." I have never forgotten that. I am now unable to afford to buy a horse, but I have a young dog and I believe there is nothing more rewarding than 1250 working in the field a sporting dog which one has bred and trained oneself.
So, my Lords, although the problem we are discussing is essentially an urban problem, do not let the townspeople forget the sports and pastimes of the countryside. I can assure them that the people, in the country, thanks to the speed of transport and the mass media to-day, think very highly of the sports available in towns. Only a couple of days ago I heard an interviewer on the radio saying to a girl something like this: "Don't you want to live in the middle of Nottingham? Think of all the things you could do if you lived in the centre of the city. "My wife and I were struck by the long pause that followed. The interviewer was unable to comprehend that people who live in the country do have access to sports that sometimes do not get the coverage that I think the Press and the other mass media communications ought to give to them.
This brings me to what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said (and I agree absolutely) that competitive games should cover a wider range, not only of the pentathlon type but, as I understood him, there should be teams of young people all doing different things. And they should all compete. My family have discussed this idea and I support it absolutely. It would bring all the young people (and they cannot all excel) into the atmosphere of sport, which is what we are to encourage.
My third and final point relates to the Commonwealth Games to be held at Edinburgh in 1970. Can the Sports Council use such influence as they have to impress on the Board of Trade and the airport authorities the need to complete the second runway at Edinburgh Airport before the start of the Games? I believe that, with determination, this could still be done; and Scotland's capital would be able to house the Games in an up-to-date fashion and not be dependent on feeder air services to convey the competitors and spectators.
In conclusion, my Lords, the leisure, to which reference has been made, is quite different from the leisure of people fifty years ago. To-day few people have tasks to do which involve great physical exercise, and very often the leisure is not necessary to rest the tired frame but 1251 to re-build it, to re-create and re-inspire; and to sharpen the mind. Whereas physical fitness, steadiness of hand, an eye for country and a knowledge and love of nature are so much the object of sport, it follows that country folk can look after themselves. But the urban problem increases with density. Planning simply must include recreational space, especially for children and the 15-year olds during the "gap" to which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, referred. But let us keep the balance of mutual respect between one sportsman and another, whether in the town or in the countryside.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, having re-read the previous debates on this subject and listened to the impressive speeches to-day by noble Lords with splendid records in many and varied fields of sport, I wish that I could say that I had been active in some sport but, alas! it would not be true. I joined tennis clubs and played tennis rather badly merely because there were some very pleasant young men in those clubs. I abandoned it when I found that I met them just as easily at dance halls and that I much preferred dancing. I can remember horrible afternoons playing netball in the mud, of which the only enjoyable part was when we left off, though I was always impressed by the sense of virtue that games seemed to inspire in those days because they were good for one's morals and health.
I have spent many years in education, in further education and in the social services, making it possible for the young to enjoy sports and games of all kinds. This has brought me closely in touch with bodies like the Central Council of Physical Recreation and the National Playing Fields Association, and I am delighted to pay my tribute from this Despatch Box to the splendid work of these organisations. If this debate has done nothing else, it has provided your Lordships with a rare opportunity to pay tribute to the many people who give either voluntary or rather poorly paid service in this field.
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, introduced this debate with his customary charm and fascination. I am always delighted to hear him. He reminded us that work and recreation are two sides of 1252 the same coin. Last week we discussed work, and this afternoon we have discussed recreation. I think that sport is indeed a re-creation and if we are to have more and more industry carried out by automative processes, it is apparent that we shall need more and more recreation if we are to achieve a balanced society.
I would agree whole-heartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, that voluntary effort must be maintained. The figures that he presented to the House were impressive and showed that badminton, sailing, gliding and other sports, which only a little while ago were the prerogative of only one side of the community, are now enjoyed by the many. He also made reference to the fact that the Sports Council is bringing cohesion and planning to sport, and I should like to emphasise at the outset, as did my noble friend the Leader of the House, that the story of the Sports Council is a success story. Recently I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with my honourable friend the Minister with special responsibility for Sport, and his knowledge, his enthusiasm and his drive made me realise that here at last was a Minister who was going to see that his Sports Council really did the things they had promised. The noble Lord and several other noble Lords made reference to young people as an under-privileged majority. I think, perhaps, that his London borough is not so progressive as mine. Perhaps West London produces more sportsmen than East London.
I would not make any attempt to reply to the comments made by several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Willis, about television nor to the suggestions made for other mass media. Perhaps we can reassure ourselves by remembering that the noble Lords who are in control of the destinies at least of two television companies sit in your Lordships' House, and will certainly read the account of this debate to-morrow. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked about the need for a national recreation centre, as I anticipated he would. I have to tell him that this project has the support of the Sports Council of Wales and of the main Sports Council. The plan of this imaginative scheme is going ahead, but I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that the Government 1253 are having to look very carefully at the present time at a wide range of capital projects, and this scheme is among them.
The question of grants for sports was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who drew attention to the powers of the Department of Education and Science to approve recommendations for grant. He will be pleased to know that these arrangements are currently under review. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, made reference to the schools sports association, and I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wise, who could not be present this afternoon, for his active support in this field. This gives me the opportunity of paying tribute to the immense amount of effort devoted by schoolteachers out of school hours to encourage young people to take part in sport and to make possible competition at all levels from inter-school matches to national and international events. Indeed, were it not for the voluntary efforts of these schoolteachers many of these events would not take place.
Most of the competition at high level is underaken by the school sports associations, both local and national. We are trying to help these associations all we can, and I am pleased to say that 19 national school sports associations received grants towards administrative expenses in 1966–67. The work of these associations is important, not only for the help which it gives to young people to-day, but also because it provides a foundation for the future of British sport. As so many noble Lords have emphasised, the star players of to-morrow are to be found among the schoolboys and schoolgirls of to-day. When entertaining a group of young teachers at my home last week, I was delighted to hear a glamorous girl announce that she was taking her football team on Saturday morning for their usual match, adding, One thing I find a little difficult to teach them is heading the ball, because I have to close my eyes". I felt that here was a typical young schoolteacher who was prepared to spend her precious Saturday mornings, every Saturday morning, taking her team out to play.
Government help is now available towards the cost of travel of national teams in the under-23, youth and school groups taking part in international events overseas. In 1966–67 four associations received grants in respect of international 1254 events. That is not the end of the story. Considerable help is given to school sport by coaching schemes organised by the national government bodies of sport, which are assisted by Government grant.
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned the need for local sports advisory councils. I am pleased to say that such councils are rapidly growing in number and that there are now more than 200 of them. These councils, which bring together representatives of the local authorities and of all sports in the locality, help in planning further development and the better use of facilities and in encouraging beginners to join clubs, and they are instrumental in improving coaching.
Some noble Lords expressed concern about the possible effect on local authority sports projects of the current need for economy. Reductions in local authority spending will inevitably involve some slowing down in the provision of major sports facilities, but it is hoped that a number of local authority projects will be approved and progress made. My noble friend Lady Burton asked how Government expenditure on sport compared with that of other Western European countries. I am afraid that I am unable to give this information to-day, but we will look into this matter and I shall let my noble friend have any valid comparisons that can be made. I should like to say that my noble friend has made my task extraordinarily easy by the splendid up-to-date survey she gave of the work of the Sports Council. Noble Lords will be delighted to know that she did play such an active part in the international sphere, and we are only sad that she has had to leave this, I hope perhaps temporarily.
I should like at this juncture to pay tribute to Sir John Lang and his colleagues. The Sports Council is a vast enterprise, and all too often I think we forget those who might be described as backroom boys. On the selective employment tax, I can assure noble Lords that the Government have received many representations from the sports organisations—it is probably a little unnecessary for me to assure your Lordships of this—on the effect of the tax on sport and physical recreation. These representations were carefully considered, but the 1255 Government did not feel able to make an exception in the application of this general measure of taxation.
Many speakers in the debate have made reference to the necessity for dual facilities. I should like to emphasise the Government's concern that the fullest possible use should be made of all sports facilities. We can no longer afford a parochial approach to sport with all that it implies in duplication of facilities and the uneconomic use of land and other resources. Only imaginative co-operation between local authorities, the local education authorities, voluntary organisations and commercial interests will ensure the maximum benefit in terms of recreational facilities from the resources available. There are encouraging developments. Jointly planned swimming pools at Egremont, Cumberland, and Lutterworth, Leicestershire, are already completed and in use, and other schemes at Workington, Cumberland, and Worksop, Nottinghamshire, are partially completed or under construction.
The noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, mentioned the report by a working party of the Sports Council members, local officials and representatives of industry on the situation at St. Helens. This has now been circulated by the Sports Council to local authorities and industrial concerns, and I hope they will give careful thought to the position in their own areas in the light of this. I should like to say, in passing, that my experience of trying to find facilities—this is when not in Government—for the games to which the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, made reference, has shown that the most important person one has to consult is the caretaker. When I have been instructing my young organisers in the art of public relations I have told them that the two most important people in any administration are the cook and the caretaker, either because they are scarce or because they wield such great power.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers, spoke about the Sports Council report, as did several other noble Lords. The report was published in November, 1966, and was entitled An Introduction to the Sports Council. While it is not planned to issue a further report at present, noble 1256 Lords will be interested to know that regular information on current developments is given in both the Department's Annual Report and the quarterly Sports Council Bulletin issued by the Central Council for Physical Recreation.
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, and several other noble Lords made reference to the National Recreation Service—sometimes it is called something different. I am sure that we all listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and other noble Lords who advocated the establishment of a National Recreation Service to meet the position of young people who have just left school. I am sure noble Lords will not expect me to comment fully on this, but I will see that my honourable friend the Minister with special responsibility for sport is made aware of your Lordships' views: indeed, the Minister has already expressed his great interest in this debate to-day, and I know that he will read every word with great care.
I now come to the more difficult point, the future of the Sports Council. I should like to emphasise what my noble friend the Leader of the House said; namely, that the Sports Council at present is working well. As I said at the beginning, this is a success story. The powers of the Department of Education and Science are contained in the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937, and they would not extend to the making of grants in aid to an Executive Sports Council of the kind envisaged. Legislation would, therefore, be necessary. As my noble friend the Leader of the House said earlier, the Government have not closed their mind to possible future changes if experience should show them to be advisable. But in view of the major change which has recently taken place, it would be premature to consider further changes at this juncture.
The noble Lord, Lord Luke, to whom we are delighted to pay tribute, raised the interesting question of the provision of play space in new housing schemes, a point on which I am very much at one with him. The compulsory provision of children's play space by local authorities within their housing schemes is not such an easy matter as might at first appear. The provision of play space is so very much a local matter that it is difficult to lay down standards on a national 1257 basis. Local authorities are, in fact, in the best position to judge the extent of the need, which varies considerably according to local conditions. Another difficulty is that, although we may all be in favour of providing play space, we do not know nearly enough about how it can best be provided.
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government's Research and Development Group is at present engaged on research into children's play as part of a larger study of the needs of the immediate housing environment. Children's play activities are being studied, and the opinions of tenants, local authorities, and other specialists are being canvassed. The results of these studies will take some time to analyse, and it is hoped to issue some further advice on children's play next year. At that stage it can be decided whether the provision of play space should be made mandatory in certain cases. But first—and I know the noble Lord, Lord Luke, will agree with this—we must be sure that we know what we want authorities to provide.
Meanwhile, local authorities are being encouraged to provide in their housing layouts the minimum standard of play space recommended in the Parker Morris Report. That is, in schemes of 80 persons per acre and above, 15 to 20 square ft. per bedspace—with a minimum of 10 square ft. in specially favourable conditions, such as where an estate has existing playgrounds readily accessible in the immediate vicinity. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government's housing cost yardstick allows for this provision, and where it is provided it will attract housing subsidy.
I will not attempt to reply to every noble Lord who has taken part in this debate, otherwise we shall be here very much later, and your Lordships will be indulging in the sport of getting home in difficult conditions. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, whom we were all delighted to hear, spoke of the growing popularity of individualistic sports. I, too, have often remarked on this. This is what I would term a quiet revolution. People are taking up in great numbers the opportunities to indulge in sports which only quite recently were not so readily available to them. I am sure my honourable friend will take note of what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said about camping 1258 grounds and ski slopes: and, of course, one would wish that all summit talks were of the kind that he described. We are all at one with the noble Lord in wishing to see the more undesirable element of competition taken out of sport. Indeed, one wonders how some of it has reached the point it has.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester made, as I thought, a challenging speech, and invited us to think whether in fact there were new divisions in sport and whether there was a new aristocracy. Again, I am sure I can refer his interesting points on rowing courses to my honourable friend for consideration.
The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, mentioned the Arts Council and suggested that the parallel with the Sports Council should not be carried too far, but then went on to suggest that in fact it could be created. But the noble Lord did make an interesting point, which again we will look at, when he suggested that the Sports Council should look more closely at the relationship between the professional and the amateur. He emphasised, as did other noble Lords, the civilising influence in the international character of sport. I am sure that none of your Lordships would disagree with that.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield, and several other noble Lords, made reference to hooliganism. This is a difficult problem and is not one on which I wish to comment too much. I must say that as a soccer fan (my team has now slipped to the bottom of the First Division, I am sad to say; but they usually do this at this time of the year) I am not sure again that the problem of hooliganism has not been "played up" too much. I am sure noble Lords will accuse me of being class-conscious when I say I can never quite see the difference between the working-class boy who does this sort of thing en route to a football match and the student who does some rather strange things at the end of term which are often regarded as high spirits. I am not in any way defending hooliganism; I am only suggesting that the reasons for this conduct need some investigation. One wonders, when one sees the dreadful housing conditions which so many of our people still live in, whether the reason for this sort of thing may be not far to seek.
1259 I must say that I am at one with the right reverend Prelate on the undesirable habit which seems to be creeping up more and more of embracing on the field. We first had two players embracing; now it seems customary for us to have six or seven. I am reminded of the comedian who, when asked why he gave up football, said he could not bear the part where he had to kiss the other players.
The noble Lord, Lord Strange, gave one of his usual fascinating and amusing speeches, which I was very sad to miss, but I am assured by my colleagues that, as always, he brought to it some very practical points, which I will certainly pass on. I think I am right in saying he was the only noble Lord in this debate who mentioned the sport of boxing. Perhaps it is just as well that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was not present in the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, gave one of his splendid speeches, which we hear all too infrequently—practical, fascinating—and indeed he gave some splendid suggestions which I shall be very happy to pass on to my honourable friend.
The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren—and I was delighted to know that he is going to be very active in the work of the Sports Council: he has already started being so—made the very important point that the Sports Council has brought together for the first time groups of people who had never before met round the table. This can do only good; it can only bring better conditions in sport and better opportunities for everybody. The noble Lord, Lord Gridley, suggested that we should try to take international politics out of sport, and in that I would be the first to agree with him. But I think he would also agree that if a Government imposes colour restrictions, this will be sheer inconvenience—if one has first of all to sort over a team to make sure they are all of the same colour of skin before one sends them abroad. I think perhaps it would be fair to say that the British do not bring international politics into sport, but that some other people, unfortunately, have done so.
The noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, I was delighted to hear, paid tribute to women—women athletes— 1260 though his description of the training of those very elegant ladies I watch with such joy on the ski slopes seemed formidable; and I hope that their muscles will not come in the wrong places. I am glad indeed that he mentioned the women who support on the touch-line. For many years I have stood at draughty places at Wormwood Scrubs, with the wind howling around my skirts, cheering on my amateur team. I do not think the actual situation to-day is very different, but all too infrequently the role of the women is forgotten. The woman who allows her husband to go and undertake any sport at the weekend does, I think, deserve a pat on the back.
Lord Wakefield of Kendal also made reference to the fact that women are now participating in every sport, and when we see our winter swimmers, and, as he mentioned, at this very moment, women participating in the winter sports, we can only feel extremely proud. As to the very practical suggestions which Lord Wakefield made on the conflict of interests, again I know that they will be looked at very closely. I wholeheartedly agree with him that this is an area in which the Sports Council can play a very important part. Again, his suggestions for the use of television I thought splendid, and one can only hope that they will be taken up by the right people. I do not think that, perhaps, Her Majesty's Government has any power in this connection.
He also mentioned the possible use of racecourses for other purposes. I am delighted that he has mentioned this point. It has always annoyed me, when I have been anxious to find some play space for some of my young people, to think that one certain racecourse is used only on three days a year. A wider use of the considerable facilities provided by racecourses would be fully in line with the Government's policy of encouraging the fullest possible use of all sports facilities. I understand that the Horse Racing Betting Levy Board are strongly in favour of racecourse facilities being used for other purposes, and that regional sports councils are ready to help and give advice on this. Indeed, the Sports Council issued a circular about it early last year, but again I will certainly see that this point 1261 is brought to the attention of my honourable friend the Minister with special responsibility for sport.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, will, I know, be delighted that at this very moment in another place the Countryside Bill is being considered in Standing Committee, because this Bill makes provision for the creation of country parks and for facilities for all kinds of recreation, including those named by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—sailing, boating and fishing—and of course it makes some reference to the sports to which the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, referred. I thought that the suggestion of the noble Lord for circulation by the Ministry of Social Security was an excellent one, and I will certainly see that it is passed to the Minister concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, will not expect me to make any comment on his very interesting suggestion. Were I standing in a different part of the House I would give him my opinion, which might be one that he would like, but I am not in a position to do so on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. Similarly I can, of course, make no comment on the proposition for the second runway at Edinburgh Airport, other than to say that I will pass it on to those concerned. I have just been reminded by my noble friend the Leader of the House that I have made no reference to the noble Lord, Lord Strange. For this I apologise.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: You did.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: You did.
§ A NOBLE LORD: That is what Leaders are for!
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
Yes, that is right. Several points were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, and also by other noble Lords who followed. She saluted, as indeed I am 1262 sure we all do, the decision of the Council of the Lawn Tennis Association, and it will be very interesting to see whether they get excellent backing, as we all hope they will. She posed the question: Does British sport receive a fair proportion of expenditure? This is, of course, an eternal problem. It is not one to which I should like to give a direct answer this evening. What I think I can say is that, with the advent of the Sports Council, there is far more opportunity that British sport will receive attention generally as well as money.
My Lords, leisure and the intelligent use of leisure is always a subject of topical interest, particularly in regard to sport. In sport, as in other leisure activities, men and women must be free to enjoy themselves as they like. But the facilities for true recreation should be available for all. I think we would say that there is no room for complacency, but, nevertheless, the position is much better than even when this subject was last debated in your Lordships' House in December, 1965. I hope there will be general agreement that Her Majesty's Government are giving every help and encouragement to sport. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for the opportunity he has given us this evening to debate this very vital and important subject, and to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate for such spendid addresses.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for that reply, and to thank all those noble Lords who have played in the team this afternoon and have given what I think has been a very good game. There was a very good omen when I came into the Chamber and noticed that one of the cameramen here was the leading cameraman on one of my television series, so I knew we were in good hands.
I have been lucky in this debate in the sense that I have been able to stretch my legs and have a smoke and still follow the debate on the small television screen. From what I saw, it all came over very well, and I would suggest that we invite Mr. Lew Grade to buy the world rights of this show when it is completed. With the money we obtain we could buy 1263 a small swimming pool and have it installed somewhere in the House of Lords for us to enjoy our leisure.
Seriously, my Lords, this is neither the time nor the place to take up the points which have been raised. I thought the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, played the fast bowling very well, but I must admit I am not yet satisfied about their reply on the Sports Council. It sounded to me to be firm, but unconvincing, and I certainly feel there has been far too much complacency about what has been called the "gap" or the "yawning gulf". I think we must return to the charge on this, because there is undoubtedly complacency in this area and I find it rather shocking.
Once again I wish to thank all noble Lords, and I should now like to ask permission of the House to draw stumps and withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.