§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 41, line 5, to leave out "For the purpose of securing," and to insert:It shall be the duty of every local education authority to secure.This was put down by my right hon. Friend arising out of the discussion on playing fields which was initiated on an Amendment by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir W. James). This Amendment, with the next one on the Order Paper, will carry out the pledge which my right hon. Friend gave on that occasion.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 41, line 8, after "training," insert "and for that purpose."—[Mr. Ede.]
§ Mr. Lindsay
I beg to move, in page 41, line 17, at the end, to insert:In securing the provision of such facilities as aforesaid every local education authority shall in particular have regard to the work of voluntary organisations engaged in youth service within its area.This is the only mention in the whole Bill of a very large amount of work which is not theoretical but which is actually going on from one end of the country to the other. That is the work conducted by the voluntary organisations in connection with youth. There is no mention in the Bill of this work, and the voluntary organisations themselves feel that these words would make clearer their responsibility. The Parliamentary Secretary will 1162 remember that it was the policy, and still is, I think, to have a marriage between the statutory and voluntary bodies in connection with a great deal of this work. I am not saying that Clause 51 is concerned solely with 14's to 18's. It is not. It is concerned with a much wider range, but, incidentally, the voluntary societies are also concerned with a much wider range. I understand that when the Clause says "establish maintain and manage or assist" it means they must be assisted financially. I also understand that this is our old friend Section 86 of the 1921 Act, rewritten and in some ways improved, and I think it was under that Section that it was possible to give the assistance directly to these bodies all over the country. We feel, and I would stress it, and the voluntary societies feel very strongly about this, that this would enshrine the great work they have done in the last few years, and hope to do in the future, in this Bill, and make crystal clear that it is the wish of the Board to maintain the closest relations between the various bodies.
§ Mr. Barnes (East Ham, South)
May I ask, for guidance, whether the discussion on this Amendment covers the next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods), the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) and myself?
§ Mr. Barnes
I would like to emphasise to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is considerable anxiety on the position of youth organisations, as he knows. Many organisations have incurred expenditure and created facilities, and we should like to have an assurance that this work will not be overlooked.
§ Lady Apsley (Bristol, Central)
I should like to support what has been so ably moved, because I feel very strongly that these youth organisations have done a tremendous lot for the country in the past and will continue to do the same in the future. Take the Boy Scouts alone. For what the Scout movement and training have done, only those of us who have been connected with the organisation know what we owe to them. It would be a graceful gesture to that organisation if some mention of the voluntary youth organisations could be inserted in this otherwise most excellent Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
I join with the tributes that have been paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) and the Noble Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley) to the work done by these various voluntary organisations. I succeeded my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock as chairman of the National Youth Committee, and had the advantage of his comradeship on that Committee until the Committee disappeared in the new organisation which was set up. We are both well aware of the great work which was done during the early months of the war, and for a considerable time afterwards, by these voluntary organisations in circumstances of great difficulty. We know that over great areas of the country they had a virtual monopoly at the time the National Youth Committee was started, and nothing in this Bill is intended in any way to limit or discourage that work. Equally, I do not think one could put in words here which might tend, on the exact wording of this Amendment, by suggesting that the voluntary organisation completely covers the field, to afford some local authority the opportunity of saying they would do nothing.
One of the discoveries of the National Youth Committee was that there were types of young people of all varieties which the voluntary organisations did not touch. To some young people these organisations, unfortunately, made no appeal. These words might be construed by an authority that was not anxious to do the job it ought to do within the State service as an opportunity for escape. We cannot accept the words in their present form, although I would not like it to be thought that the mere fact that voluntary organisations are not mentioned in the Bill means that we think their functions can now be dispensed with. My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) is, I understand, closely connected with a youth organisation known as "Woodcraft," and I gather from the names supporting the Amendment that that was the organisation which he had particularly in mind. That and similar organisations have their well-established place; there is nothing in the Bill that takes anything away from them. But if my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) will have a talk with me between now and the Report 1164 stage, we will see whether it is possible to put into the Bill a form of words which will recognise the voluntary organisations without discouraging the municipal organisations.
§ Mr. Lindsay
In that case I will withdraw my Amendment. Those who have supported it want to see words in the Bill in a form which will be acceptable to the Government. I understand that that is what the Parliamentary Secretary undertook to do.
§ Mr. Lindsay
We want to see the words "youth organisation" in the Bill. We have "education" in and we want those words in. Is that all right?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Captain Cobb
This Clause refers to the establishment and maintenance of playing-fields and playing grounds. Something more should be done in the future to provide adequate playing facilities for schools, particularly for those which are now called elementary schools. Anything more depressing than the average school playground in any industrial town is difficult to discover. It is certain that for a long time to come it is not likely that adequate playing-fields will be available for every school, and I would like to suggest that we should extend the school week to include the holiday on Saturday, in order that there may be a staggering of the use of playing-fields, so that every school in the local authority area should have at least an even money chance of getting one period on those playing-fields. The Parliamentary Secretary is, no doubt, aware that for schools in the Deptford and Bermondsey area a successful experiment was started by the London County Council, which provided a large playing-field on the outskirts of London with temporary classrooms attached. Schools in that congested area went to the playing-field to spend a day there, working and playing, and an extension of that principle would, I think, be a God-send to many other 1165 schools I hope there is a real intention on the part of the Minister' to "ginger-up" some of our backward authorities and to ensure that far better playing facilities are available for our schools.
§ Mr. E. Harvey
I would like strongly to support what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb). I feel sure that the Government have done a great thing in putting an obligation on local authorities to provide these facilities, and if they can encourage and guide them in the way that has been suggested and impress upon them that when rebuilding old schools and building new ones they should take advantage of the scheme of grouping schools on the principle of what is known as the school base, so that common facilities for playing-fields can be provided, they will get over the economic difficulties which would otherwise create an obstacle towards the attainment of what is the desire of the Government. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will assure us that the Board will give a strong lead to local authorities in this matter. Around some country schools there is plenty of land but no playgrounds or facilities for recreation are available.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) may rest assured that the action my right hon. Friend took in response to the recent appeal made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Admiral Sir W. James) was a very genuine expression of his own views and those of the Government in this matter. As one who was an elementary schoolmaster for a considerable number of years, I know the great difficulty the majority of our schools have in being able to organise games of the kind that every boy and girl of adolescent age ought to play. I know the wretched small playgrounds in which the only game one can possibly play is "tag," and which are covered with gravel. After having had to pay for footwear for four children, my father used to say that playgrounds were laid down and controlled by people with great interests in the leather industry. Those playgrounds will, I hope, soon become things of the past.
1166 I share the view that local education authorities would be well advised to plan a series of playing fields so that they could be made generally available to schools in the area. Only a few weeks ago the Board sanctioned the purchase, jointly by the Surrey and London County Councils, of 250 acres of land in suburban Surrey for the use of children there and children in South-West London. The Board do regard the question of the provision of adequate playing fields, as opposed to the old-fashioned small playgrounds, as a vital matter. I would like to emphasise the need for the application of this principle to rural as well as urban schools. Often some village schools are worse served in the matter of these facilities and it should be the desire of every local education authority to see that rural school-children have the same facilities that have, in the past, been secured in some areas, in a far greater measure, for urban school-children. The Government desire to see this Clause fully implemented by the local education authorities.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Am I right in asking whether this Clause buries the National Fitness Council? If so, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to record it as a matter of historical fact.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill" put, and agreed to.