asked Her Majesty's Government:
What percentage of the manpower of the Corps of Army Music will be made redundant.
My Lords, up to 76 members of the Corps of Army Music will be made redundant as a result of the implementation of the Future Army Structure. This represents a reduction of 8 per cent against the current Corps of Army Music trained strength of 997.
As well as redundancies, the Corps of Army Music will also reduce in size as a result of natural wastage, and by limiting the extensions of soldiers employed on short-term engagements. Recruitment to the Corps of Army Music will continue.
My Lords, in addition to the redundancies that the Minister mentioned I understand that there is an ongoing review. I am concerned that that will also result in more famous bands going to the wall. This Government have been appallingly careless with our traditions. British people old and young take enormous pride and pleasure in our Army bands. Does the Minister agree that they play an important role in maintaining esprit de corps and in keeping the Armed Forces in the public eye? Why are any redundancies being considered when the Corps of Army Music is, according to its website, short of players of the violin, viola, cello, double bass, oboe, bassoon, clarinet and saxophone?
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.
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?
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.
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 yacht—the noble Lord seems to have forgotten the question of tradition—constituted its main role?
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 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.
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.
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?
My Lords, the cash provision over the period when the Future Army Structure comes into being is about £30 million.
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?
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.
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?
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 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?
My Lords, as far as I know, the school of music is not under threat of closure. If I am wrong about that, I will of course tell the House in the normal way as soon as possible.
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.