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Bands (Civil Engagements)

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the attempt of the Musicians' Union to prevent military bands from playing at civil entertainments; and whether he will give an assurance that no interference with the bands of His Majesty's Forces will be tolerated in future.

Subject to the exigencies of the Service, Army bands are permitted to accept civil engagements of a nonpolitical character, under certain conditions, one of which is that the terms shall not be lower than those which would in the same circumstances be accepted by a civilian band of the same size in the same locality. I am not prepared to recommend the withdrawal of the longstanding permission given to Service bands to enter into engagements of this kind in accordance with the approved regulations.

Is the Secretary of State aware that in the case which gave rise to this Question there was no undercutting by the Band of the Grenadier Guards, and that the demand of the Musicians' Union that the promoters of the ball should either cancel the show or send the band of the Grenadier Guards away was therefore nothing short of blackmail?

If there was any blackmail it is for the aggrieved parties to take proceedings.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that after their original refusal to allow the military band to play, the union representatives offered, apparently as an afterthought, kindly to allow the band to play so long as they did not do so in uniform; and would that meet with his approval?

Well, I cannot help what happened on that occasion, but I have stated the quite definite principle by which I intend to stand.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the appearance of military bands in uniform is always a popular feature at civilian functions, and calculated to assist recruiting?

Entirely apart from the recruiting objective, I do not imagine that the public would take kindly to any proposal to prevent Army bands from appearing in public.

Will the Secretary of State consider allowing the members of these military bands to join the Musicians' Union?

They have already got a very close corporation and I see no reason for any other.