Sport (Coaching Facilities)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th July 1963.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Lewisham North 12:00 am, 16th July 1963

At this hour, which is con- siderably earlier than I had originally expected, I find it all the easier to welcome the initiative of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) in raising this subject. I am obviously particularly glad to have the opportunity of speaking on this subject about these services, of which I have been a satisfied consumer in the past.

The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) had some extremely kindly things to say about me which only add to the warm regard in which I have always held his views about athletics since the time when as a busy Minister he used to find time to write to me, an undergraduate at Oxford, about the training that I ought to follow. If I had thought that I could by staying in athletics for a year or two more have secured a higher place in an Olympic race than the right hon. Gentleman, I would have done so.

The proposition that the hon. Member for West Lothian puts to the House tonight is that there should be one unified coaching system. I think that this is an element of the suggestion that he was making. He urges that there should be a great expansion of coaching and that we should look to the professional coach for more assistance. I am not personally one of those who defend the amateur principle with the upmost vigour, and I am certainly not one to argue that professional coaching would in any way be damaging to British sport.

The hon. Gentleman might wish me to outline the very varied coaching arrangements that exist at the moment so that we may better judge at the end whether it would be right to have one coaching system. There are, broadly speaking, four ways in which training facilities are provided. The first is by the C.C.P.R.—in Scotland, by the S.C.P.R.—at the national recreation centres, three in England and Wales, one in Scotland, through courses for coaches and leaders and through coaching holidays, in a wide variety of sports and activities. I have a good deal of first-hand knowledge of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, and I believe that the expansion of its activities in recent years is a most valuable contribution to coaching and to sport. The second is by the specialist sports organisations—at national recreation centres, often in conjunction with the C.C.P.R. and at other centres: courses for coaches and leaders are run by national coaches, honorary coaches and professionals. Run by the specialist sports organisations, there are courses conducted more locally by coaches and professionals. Thirdly, some local education authorities provide coaching in the form of training courses, mainly for school leavers. Fourthly, as the hon. Gentleman knows, there are the training colleges which offer courses in physical education for specialist teachers.

Those are the means by which coaching is provided to thousands of young people, and the Government have been anxious to expand the provision of coaching in all these forms. The grants to the C.C.P.R. and the S.C.P.R. have been substantially raised over the past three years. The C.C.P.R., which was running on a grant of£140,000 in 1960–61, has this year£245,000 in grant from the Ministry of Education. The S.C.P.R., which had a grant of£19,500 in 1960–61, now has£40,000 from the Scottish Education Department. That is a measure of the increase in activity in these two bodies.

Such specialist sports organisations as the Amateur Athletic Association, the Amateur Swimming Association, and so on, have equally been provided with larger grants in recent years, and grants to a total of over£42,000 have already been offered in this current year to 19 specialist sports organisations in England and Wales and to eight in Scotland. Applications from a number of other bodies are still under consideration. Just three years ago, the corresponding total of grants was about a quarter of the present sum.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, many of these specialist bodies have national coaches. The hon. Gentleman referred again to the question of a national athletics coach in Scotland. I cannot add a great deal to what was said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, but it is clear that the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association and the Scottish Women's A.A.A. decided against employing a national coach and in favour of running separate coaching schemes relying on part-time coaches. I am not in a position to say whether or not that was a sensible decision—it does not seem to me to be self-evident that it was an unwise one.

The hon. Gentleman may be in a better position to judge, but I must confess that a slight shiver went down my spine—he may think it a very reactionary shiver down a reactionary spine—when he speculated on whether sport can be left in the hands of rather haphazard organisations. I have never objected to fierce criticism of the administrators of sport as long as, at the same time, tribute is paid to the hard work they do simply for love of the sport, but it seems to me to be a very different thing to say that coaching must be taken out of the hands of these bodies, which have an undoubted enthusiasm for their sport and have built up considerable experience over the years.

I do not believe that this would be the right way to proceed. We want to build upon the coaching schemes that have already been successfully launched.

Perhaps I may quickly say a word or two about facilities, too, because we cannot coach if we have not somewhere to do the coaching, and it is of importance, therefore, that we are seeing a very substantial expansion in the provision of sporting facilities of all kinds. It is of interest that the local authorities have increased their expenditure very greatly in recent years. The value of work done by local authorities on facilities exclusively for sport totalled only£2·6 million in 1960–61, and rose to£8½million in 1962–63 and is estimated at£11 million for the current year. The hon. Member quoted the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition as saying that a Labour Government would give another£5 million to sport. Well, I do not know what exactly this means, over what period or to what type of sport, but the hon. Member will see that in, that sphere alone there has been a rise of considerably more than that sum in the last three years.

I could give him other figures, had I the time, for the increase in expenditure by local education authorities. This is mainly, of course, on sports facilities at schools, colleges, and so on, but we are paying a good deal of attention at the moment to the possibilities of providing facilities which can be useful to the community as a whole. Under the measures announced by my noble Friend the Lord President a few weeks ago we can look forward to progress from voluntary bodies. At present, starts are being made by voluntary sports bodies at a level of about£500,000 a year, and it is our intention to increase those starts to something like£1½million by 1965–66, and the terms upon which grants can be given have been relaxed. Important, too, in the provision of sports facilities, and in coaching, is the youth service building programme, because increasingly we are seeing sports projects attached to youth clubs. I believe this is a very useful development. The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that a sports hall, which can be a multi-purpose sports centre of which he was talking the other day, is an increasingly popular idea, I think, in youth service circles. We have not got the time to discuss what he means by a multi-sports centre, but a sports hall can accommodate a great variety of sports.

In short, then, there is an expansion both of coaching and of the facilities which are necessary to any coaching system, and I believe that we should do better to expand the many coaching systems which we have rather than concentrate upon one unified scheme, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. But I am entirely with him in believing that an expansion of coaching is desirable, be cause the problem in this country is not simply to provide the sports facilities which young people want—