HL Deb 06 May 1999 vol 600 cc790-2

3.32 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the future of the Royal Tournament.

Lord Burlison

My Lords, on 7th October last year, my noble friend Lord Hoyle informed the House that the current form of the Royal Tournament would end on a high note this year, but a flagship event would continue. As part of the Services' contribution to the millennium celebrations, the Royal Military Tattoo 2000 will be staged on Horse Guards Parade from 10th to 15th July 2000. The format, location and timing of events after that remain the subject of further planning.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that rather disappointing Answer. Would it not be more honest to say right from the beginning that this will be the last Royal Tournament; that next year it will not be the event we know because there will be no field guns? Why does not the MoD underwrite the £500,000 needed to keep this self-financing and very enjoyable pageant going?

Lord Burlison

My Lords, the Royal Tournament has served us well for a great many years. However, as we approach the new millennium, it is appropriate to take a fresh look at the event. In its current form, the tournament sends only a limited message about the role of the Armed Forces in the modern world and therefore needs to be reviewed.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that for years the Royal Tournament has been not only marvellous entertainment and a great tourist attraction, but has also helped the Armed Forces with much needed recruitment? Is it not short-sighted and narrow-minded to let it come to an end like this?

Lord Burlison

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that question and agree that the Royal Tournament has served this country well. We can all be proud of the event and its success over the years. However, it is clear that with the change that is taking place and the fact that attendance has fallen from 300,000 to 200,000 we must look at the event again.

Furthermore, while recruitment generally in the Armed Forces is buoyant this year, there are reservations about whether the Royal Tournament targets the right area for recruitment. That was one of the main reasons why the position needs to be reviewed.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, it has been known that the Royal Tournament has been in a bad way financially for some years. There has been no payment from the tournament to the services' charities. However, they have received a considerable amount of money from a lottery connected with the tournament. Can the Minister assure the House that those charities will be compensated for the losses they will suffer as a result of the closure of the tournament?

Lord Burlison

My Lords, the noble Lord has made a good point. In recent years, we have seen a steady decline in the finances of the tournament. Between 1991 and 1997 it made an overall loss of £600,000. During that period, donations were made to the various charities, in particular those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham. I cannot give assurances about those charities, but I am sure that the committee and the MoD will be examining the changes which need to take place in the tournament and their future effects on charities.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the Minister said that the Royal Tournament should cease to take place because it has little relationship to what happens in the 20th or 21st centuries. Can he assure the House that such absurd scrutiny will not apply to the Trooping of the Colour?

Lord Burlison

My Lords, at this point in time, I do not wash to comment on that. However, I appreciate the noble Earl's point. The effects of the revised tournament arrangements or its format will be subject to further study. If the noble Earl and other noble Lords wish to make recommendations and proposals, or to give advice to the department concerned, I am assured that they will be taken on board.

Lord Hoyle

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, while the new venue will retain the best traditions of the Royal Tournament, its setting will allow the services to be better represented and will have a wider appeal to the population?

Lord Burlison

My Lords, it might be that my noble friend knows a little more than I do in relation to future events. However, for 2001 and beyond a further study will consider a replacement for the current event which will provide the opportunity to put across the message of the armed services in a fashion better than we are able to do at the moment. We want to send the general public a message about the services and their future role in a changed world. However, as regards the future beyond 2000, nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.

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