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Lord Bach: My Lords, it is fairly outrageous and cheeky of the noble Lord to say that we are careless of traditions. That is completely unfair given that this Government have spent more on defence over a continued period than any other for 20 years. The noble Lord's comment is a bit rich. After all, the noble Lord supports a party which when last in power reduced planned defence spending by 15 per cent. Therefore, I shall not take any lessons from the noble Lord on that although, of course, he asked his question in his normal charming way.
Of course, the importance of Army bands is very much recognised. They will continue their long and illustrious history of being primarily linked with regiments and corps to help support and perpetuate the regimental ethos of the Army. That ethos is as important today as it ever has been.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, have efforts been made to rerole those bandsmen rather than making them redundant? As many bandsmen have nuclear, biological and chemical training and are trained as medics, would it not be cost-effective to rerole them rather than retrain other people? Following the noble Lord's answer to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, is he aware that an election may come round soon?
Lord Bach: My Lords, on the noble Lord's last point, I am aware of that matter. As regards the noble Lord's first point, I shall certainly ensure that that is considered. As I say, redundancies will constitute a small number of those who will leave the Corps of Army Music. The remaining reduction will be achieved through natural wastage and by limiting the extensions of soldiers employed on short-term engagements. That is the same as elsewhere in the Armed Forces but I shall, of course, take away the idea that we should consider reroling the relevant people.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the band of the Royal Marines is about the finest of any of the military bands? What is its role, particularly since playing on the royal yachtthe noble Lord seems to have forgotten the question of traditionconstituted its main role?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I agree absolutely with the noble Baroness's comment about the band of the Royal Marines. I have had the pleasure of listening to that band play on a number of occasions. I have listened to it in the
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Royal Albert Hall and in other places. The Question I am answering today concerns Army bands. As I understand it, no change is considered with regard to the Royal Marines.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, will the Minister give me an absolute guarantee that if the Scottish division is reduced to five battalions, each will have its own pipe band? How many military bands will there be in the Scottish division?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord a guarantee on that. It is proposed that there will be one band for the division. I am not in a position to answer the noble Lord regarding pipe bands.
Lord Garden: My Lords, the Minister gave us a very precise answer regarding the bandsmen who will have to be made redundant. Presumably, he has similar figures for the various specialisations of all the other services. What cash provision is the Ministry of Defence having to make for redundancy for the financial year that starts tomorrow and for the subsequent two years?
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, will my noble friend accept from me that the shortages in recruitment to which the noble Lord, Lord Astor, referred are not limited to musicians wishing to take part in military musical activities but are an indication of a general shortfall in young people wishing to take up music as a career and reaching the required standard? Will he encourage his colleagues in other departments to continue the good work that this Government have been doing in getting more young people involved in music at an early stage?
Lord Bach: My Lords, my noble friend has great experience in this field, but I know myself that there are shortages across the board as far as music is concerned. I will certainly pass on what she said to other government departments.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that in the Scottish regiments pipe bands are normally formed from fighting platoons whose main task is military, and that the role of pipes and drums is purely secondary and undertaken when they are not required for military purposes, unlike military bands as such?
Lord Luke: My Lords, when so many fighting regiment bands are likely to be decimated, why is it necessary for the Adjutant-General's corps to have a
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band at all? In view of the redundancies that he has announced, will the Minister confirm that the school of music at Knellor Hall is not under threat of closure?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I remind the House of my peripheral interest. The Minister introduced the subject of the size of the defence budget. As a percentage of GDP, has the defence budget increased or decreased?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not know the answer to that question. All I know is that this Government have increased the defence budget over the past number of years, in absolute marked contrast to the party of the noble Earl opposite.
Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords. As part of implementing the Children Act, two particular sets of draft guidance make it clear that play is an important part of recreation; that is, statutory guidance on inter-agency co-operation to improve the well-being of children, and guidance on the children and young people's plan. Additionally, the nine inspectorates and commissions that inspect children's services have proposed that joint area reviews will address all children's services against 42 key judgments, one of which is that there is a range of accessible recreational provision for children and young people.
Lord Pendry: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, in view of the anxieties that still exist among children's groups on this issue, will she agree to meet those groups as soon as possible to assure them that the spirit of my amendment during the passage of the Bill will be fully reflected in the Every Child Matters inspection framework?
Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords. I am pleased to say that the Children's Play Council is a good friend to the Government, and there is good partnership there. We continue to value the consultations that we have with it and with the voluntary sector. The noble Lord might like to know that the Minister has written to him today, to tell him that the inspection guidance which is now being looked at in relation to consultation will clarify that play is within the scope of the key judgments on recreational
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provision. That is the first time that inspection will make reference to play and recreation. That is an important step forward.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, what arrangements have been made to see that children with special needs, particularly physically disabled children, are able to be as fully included as possible in all play and recreational schemes?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, that is important, because the Dobson review on play drew attention to the fact that there was a gap in provision for disabled young people as regards play. We are simply not doing enough for them, bearing in mind that they have special needs for play and for particular types of play. The inspectorates have already proposed the joint area reviews, which are the new ways of making sure that the Children Act will be properly implemented across the local authorities. They will have a particular focus on children with disabilities and special needs, which is good; as is the announcement last week that the Big Lottery Fund is allocating £155 million for play and recreation, which is a wonderful step forward in this field.
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, the noble Baroness has referred to play in the context of recreation. Does she agree that play is an essential dimension of learning for younger children and that play in the form of games, competitive sports and team games is an important element in learning social skills for older children?
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