Final of the Inter-House debating competition
" This house is of the opinion that there is no National Health in Great Britain ". This was the motion debated this year by the finalists in the competition on March 12.
Mr. Leff, for Higham House, proposed the motion. Many working days were lost by illness and powerful modern advertising and methods of transport encouraged disease. This was an age of
wars, poverty, and disease and one where apathy prevailed. Our living was only partly living and even the Prayer Book realised that " there is no health in us ". This speech was full of words, words that flowed, tumbled and gushed forth - a veritable avalanche, to change the metaphor.
Mr. Perschky began his speech for the Opposition above the noise of laughter as the main speakers proposing the motion swallowed gulps of medicine drawn from bottles of coloured liquid.
It was unfortunate that he should have begun by saying how healthy his opponents looked. He gave impressive figures for the decrease in disease, the rise in the nutritional value of food, and the increased expectation of life. The School itself placed a heavy emphasis on good health: it had built a new gymnasium, was preparing for a new swimming pool, and broke records on Sports Day. Our physical and economic health were strong. Our material prosperity had increased and advertising itself showed a spirit of healthy competition.
Mr. Waldmann questioned Mr. Perschky's assumption that we were the healthiest country in the world. Two hundred and twenty million prescriptions were dispensed annually and our increased food
production was mainly in fats and carbohydrates at the expense of protein. So many teeth were filled that the figures showed that every person had at least half a tooth filled every year. Neuresthenia was rampant, he went on, and too much emphasis on health produced psychological troubles. Indeed, free treatment merely encouraged improvidence.
When Mr. Morgan rose to support the Opposition his case was almost lost. However, he fought back well. He dealt with the mental and political health of the nation. Examination successes had increa-sed and we know of few civil upheavals. Great Britain had brought many nations to independence peacefully and had helped enor-mously with world health, too.
When the Chairman, Mr. R. Wood, opened the debate to the floor, response was slow. The speeches were short and often too frivolous. Chambers argued that a two-hundred-yard-walk daily to the bus stop did not promote health; King thought that it was not our fault if we caught colds; Bavington thought that the government had made a mistake in barring pedestrians from the M.1. as it would have provided an opportunity for fine physical exercise.
In the closing speeches Perschky agreed that the Prayer Book commented on the state of health of the country but he pointed out that it was at least four hundred years old. Leff neatly demolished Perschky's authorities and made a rather obvious attack on what he called " the common press ".
The motion was passed by 102 votes to 20.
Mr. Hodson, our adjudicator, made some deft criticisms of the speeches. Leff had shown literary rather than oral skills and had relied rather too much on written preparation. Waldmann had spoken well but had been inaudible. Perschky had shown skilful use of figures and Morgan, after a promising opening, had allowed his speech " to tail off ". The prize for the best individual speaker was awarded to Leff and the trophy was awarded to Higham House.
During the afternoon it was a pleasure to welcome our Chair-man of the Governors, Mr. S. N. Chaplin. He always tries to be with us on the occasion of the Allpass festival of Spoken English and this year he maintained his notable record.
This was, of course, the final of a competition that had run for many months thanks to the work of Mr. P. S. Couch, Mr. R. D. T. Marshall, Mr. R. Wood, and other Members of the Staff. It was encouraging, therefore, that their labours had been rewarded by a final that maintained the high standard of recent years.