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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am happy to give my noble friend some good news. The Secretary of State for Defence has made it absolutely clear that at the end of the review he wants no one to be in a position to say that their voice was not heard. At least one representative from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has been invited to one of our all-day seminars.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it certainly remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to keep a minimum strategic deterrent in the form of Trident. I would not be standing at this Dispatch Box if that were not the case.
Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the principles of the non-proliferation treaty would be immensely strengthened if the three smaller nuclear powers were to make a declaration that, as long as Russia and the United States continue to decrease the number of their nuclear weapons, there will be no question of our increasing our own arsenal? Will the Minister assure the House that this principle will in any case apply to the number of warheads deployed on Trident?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, as regards the suggestion of a get-together by what my noble friend calls the "smaller nuclear powers", I possibly touched on the point in the earlier reply which I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. There is not much more that I can add at this stage.
Earl Howe: My Lords, what is the Government's approach to the possibility of a fissile material cut-off treaty? Do they agree that such a treaty would be a useful step towards containing nuclear proliferation?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, at the moment we are conducting negotiations about the kind of range and subjects that this fissile material cut-off treaty should cover. I cannot help the noble Earl much further at this stage but I shall be happy to get back to him.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, nothing is subservient to Her Majesty's Government's intention to ensure that this country remains properly defended. That is why we said what we did say about the strategic system of Trident. I do not therefore see the inconsistency to which my noble friend alludes.
I thank my noble friend for what I think is a promising reply. Is she aware that there are a number of reasons why the law should be changed? Two of them are very widely held and not only by head teachers. First, it is hypocritical to ask teachers to force religion on children who do not hold religious beliefs. Secondly, there is the more practical point that many schools, including three-quarters of the secondary schools, are physically unable to have such an assembly because the room or hall is not big enough. As this reform has been talked about by both religious and non-religious groups for many years, is it now time to do something very quickly?
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, with regard to the review that is being undertaken, do Her Majesty's Government recognise the value and the importance of the Government themselves consulting the Churches and other faith communities if any change is to be made in this matter?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for raising that question. Yes, of course the Government will want to consult very widely if any change is to be made as a result of the review, and we want to include the Churches in any consultation that takes place.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority is developing guidance on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, all of which the Government regard as important. That will extend beyond the curriculum and will embrace the contribution that daily collective worship can make.
Lord Henley: My Lords, bearing in mind that this is a legal requirement and, I understand, has been a legal requirement since the 1944 Act, a measure which has been supported by governments of all political persuasions, will the noble Baroness inform the House just what the Government will do before the results of the review? I believe that it is the 28th review that the Government have announced since the election. Before that review is completed, what action will the Government be taking to ensure that that legal requirement is enforced?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, perhaps I may explain to the noble Lord--I am a little surprised that he is not aware of it, as he was a Minister of State in the Department for Education and Employment--that this review was set up under his own Government and not during the office of the new Government. We want to see the results of collective worship reviewed before deciding whether to take any further action. With regard to the question of non-compliance, which I believe is
Lord Sefton of Garston: My Lords, does the Minister agree, as pressure builds up in society for an extension of the privileges now enjoyed by the Christian religion to be extended to other religions which are just as credible, that we should even now give consideration to the question of installing a secular system of education as applied in the USA?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, to respond to that question at this stage would pre-empt the results of the review. We must wait to see what it says. Perhaps I could add that it is perfectly possible for schools to have secular assemblies as well as a daily act of worship that involves religion.
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