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Baroness Andrews: Absolutely, my Lords; play is the foundation of learning. They are interdependent, which is why in the guidance on the foundation stage of learning for three to fives, and the Birth To Three Matters programme, covering from birth to three years, we have put such an emphasis on play as part of child development and social skills. The noble Lord is passionately interested in the role of parents, and much of what we do is to enable parents through different programmes to learn how to play with their children and to understand the benefits that that brings.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, in looking back on childhood, I think of play and playing out as a great highlight. I remember doing some things that I would not dream of letting my children and grandchildren do. But will the Minister indicate in the discussions and guidance where play is to take place? I look back on places where one played out and you cannot do it any more; there is some formal activity taking place in those places. In order that there can be enjoyable play, it seems to me that there must be a place where play can take place.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we would all like to hear some more details about that childhood; it sounds extremely intriguing. I am not sure that the noble Lord
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has changed. However, he is absolutely right. One of the things that we will be looking at when we are inspecting, and Ofsted will have a role in this too, is whether new play provision is safe, accessible and equal in terms of access for all children. Our streets are not as safe as they were. Part of the emphasis that we want to put on better neighbourhoods and safer neighbourhoods is on freeing up proper spaces for children to be safe to play.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, does the definition of children's services in law, as it relates to the Every Child Matters framework, include provision for play?

Baroness Andrews: Very much so, my Lords. I am sure that noble Lords will remember the debates that we had in the passage of the Children Act, when we discussed the relationship between enjoying and achieving and we added recreation into the Bill as one of the outcomes, emphasising that play belonged within recreation. That is written in all our materials that are going out on the implementation of the Children Act.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, does the Minister recall that investment in the Summer Splash play schemes in 2002 led to a reduction in crime of 7.4 per cent in the area invested? In the same period of June, July and August in the previous year, there had been an increase in crime of 2.9 per cent. So there was an overall drop of 10 per cent. Is that not another reason why we should be investing more in this area?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, that is a completely watertight argument. In fact, the Splash programmes have been so successful at picking up some of the most disaffected children, who would say that otherwise they would be in the back of a police car for most of the summer, that some of those children have now been enrolled in activities such as the positive activities for young people programme, which involved over 100,000 children last year. It was extremely successful. That is in the context of the expansion of out-of-school activities as a whole which, through the New Opportunities Fund and government funding, have seen a major expansion over the past five years.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that children need to learn to play, and that the performing arts can make a very important contribution to helping children to find ways of expressing themselves through play? Are encouragement and funding available for organisations that are developing techniques using the performing arts in this way?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am sure that there would have been a positive link with the funding that came from the New Opportunities Fund, which developed out-of-school arts, play and recreation. I am sure that we will see a lot of innovative work in the programmes funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It is
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extremely important to bring that together, because I absolutely agree that the arts are such a creative form of play in themselves.

Sudan: Darfur

2.59 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, accurate figures are not available, and estimates vary from 70,000 to 300,000 dead. The United Kingdom will fund a mortality survey, but it is unlikely to produce a full and accurate picture. However, we are pleased that the three recent United Nations Security Council resolutions will support the peace process. UNSCR 1590 provides for troops in support of the comprehensive peace agreement, UNSCR 1591 provides for the sanctions against those who impede the peace process, and UNSCR 1593—sponsored by the United Kingdom—deals with the referral of individuals suspected of war crimes to the International Criminal Court. All those United Nations resolutions are positive developments.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I strongly welcome the role that Her Majesty's Government played in securing the passage of Resolution 1593 in particular, referring those responsible for war crimes to the International Criminal Court. However, the Minister will have seen the report published last week by a House of Commons Select Committee entitled Darfur, Sudan: The responsibility to protect. It was critical, stating that early warnings about the emerging crisis were ignored and that there had been a scandalously ineffective response. She will have also seen its estimates that approximately 300,000 people have now died in Darfur. It states that nearly 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, a figure which it suggests could rise to 4 million by the end of the year. Does she believe that the fewer than 2,000 African Union soldiers in Darfur will be sufficient to contain the continuing crisis?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for what he said. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary worked enormously hard; it was particularly difficult to secure the passage of UNSCR 1593 but, happily, those who were inclined to veto were persuaded to abstain.

Of course I am aware of the report to which the noble Lord refers, but our Department for International Development has worked hard on justice, the security sector, and disarmament and demobilisation. He asks whether there are enough AU troops on the ground. The report of 11 January from Special Representative Pronk said that the African Union was making a difference on the ground and had surpassed expectations. However, as
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the noble Lord will know, the African Union force is under review. We expect a report from those countries taking part in the review very shortly on ways in which the force can be further strengthened by the UN.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, in the light of the new UN figures placing the death toll at 300,000, will Her Majesty's Government continue to maintain that the Darfur atrocities are not genocide?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we have been over the matter before. As we get more and more evidence about what is happening on the ground, I have no doubt that more and more opinions will be brought to bear on it. The noble Baroness knows that it is difficult to get to the real information, given the violent nature of what is happening. That is why it is so important that the United Nations Security Council resolutions have been passed. It was an enormous achievement, starting on 24 March and working through to 31 March, that we now have international consensus about what should be happening. Importantly, the referral of 51 individuals to the International Criminal Court took place today.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister say anything about the logistic difficulties mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, as having prevented the force even reaching the target level of 3,300 troops, which was specified in the original resolution at the end of October 2004? Will she further say when the Security Council will consider the recommendation by Mr Jan Pronk that there be an increase in the strength of the force to at least 8,000, and that the mandate of the force be extended to the protection of the civilian population?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I understand it, the AU-led mission—it included not only the UN, the UK and the US, but the EU—is currently looking at the performance of the AU on the ground. I have already told your Lordships that Mr Pronk from the UN has said that that performance has surpassed expectations. However, the next stage is the recommended increase to 6,000 troops; I do not think that the figure is 8,000. It will be under consideration in the light of the report coming forward from the countries that I mentioned, which have undertaken the review as part of that AU-led mission.

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