§ 3 p.m.
§ Baroness Hamwee asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ Whether, following the establishment of the Royal Parks Agency on 1st April 1993, each of the parks will be able to retain for its own use any surplus income it may generate, and if not, why not.
My Lords, the financial arrangement agreed with the Treasury will allow the Royal Parks Agency to keep 50 per cent. of any income above its Voted provision. This reflects the need to tackle a backlog of essential maintenance which exists throughout the parks. It is not specific to individual parks.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, does the Minister agree that to allow discretion as to the use of surplus income would encourage appropriate investment in the parks and the enjoyment and full use of them? It would be a good idea for each park to be treated differently by those who know about it.
My Lords, in practice that would normally be the aim. However, because of differing priorities across the parks, the chief executive will be the ultimate arbiter on how the additional income will be used. That is to ensure that the primary aims of the agency set out in the corporate plan are best served.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, why has the essential repair and refurbishment work to the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, one of the Royal 597 parks, been suspended? Is it part of the Exchequer cuts? Should it not be a national responsibility for that work to proceed as quickly as possible?
My Lords, the Government recognise the importance of that Grade I listed memorial and are committed to its repair and restoration. Over £2 million has already been spent on a full survey and protection and to prevent any deterioration. Plans for the restoration have been prepared. The current cost is projected to be £10.4 million over six to seven years. We do not yet have a commencement date for the works.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, what is happening about the Royal Parks Advisory Committee? Is there to be one committee for all the Royal parks or will each park have its own committee? How will local people be consulted in advance?
My Lords, there will be one advisory committee. Its main function will be to provide a source of independent advice for the Secretary of State on the agency's proposals for the development of the parks and the agency's performance against its published targets. Park managers are building on their relationships with local interest groups. The agency's corporate plan will be published on 1st April. A copy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. In addition, the agency also proposes to make individual park plans available to local groups and statutory bodies in due course.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, does the Minister accept that some of us are extremely surprised to learn that any Royal park might make a profit? Will he explain how a profit is to be made? If it is to be made what magnitude are we talking about? Furthermore, is making a profit to be a criterion in re-letting contracts? In other words, if a park fails to make a profit, will that failure influence who obtains the contract next time?
My Lords, I believe that the noble Baroness is somewhat mistaken. The parks do not make a profit. The expenditure for 1993–94 is £26.9 million. Out of that sum, the income is only £2 million. There is therefore no question of making a profit. We were discussing earlier any profit on specific projects which occur within a park. That is a different matter.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, if any profit or other surplus money is generated in relation to St. James's Park, will my noble friend ask the body responsible for allocating such surplus money to consider further work to ensure the full aeration, circulation and cleanliness of the water in the pond which in hot weather can detract considerably from the attractions of the park?
My Lords, we have already taken steps to improve the water quality in St. James's Park. Time will tell this summer how successful those measures have been. In the past, all excess receipts had 598 to be surrendered to the Consolidated Fund. The fact that we are able to retain 50 per cent. is a substantial improvement.
§ Lord Geddes
My Lords, in his original Answer, did my noble friend refer to 50 per cent of any income or 50 per cent. of any surplus income?
My Lords, it is 50 per cent. of any surplus income, which means 50 per cent. of any income which is not part of budgeted income for that year.
§ Lord Donoughue
My Lords, when announcing the extension of the agency concept to Royal parks, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster claimed that hitherto the agencies had achieved three of their four targets in the areas of finance, productivity and value for money. He admitted that with regard to the fourth target area, quality, the agencies were falling short. Is the Minister aware that quality is the prime priority in relation to our Royal parks for the citizens of London and its visitors and that it should be a higher priority than the financial considerations being promoted?
My Lords, the aims of the Royal Parks Agency is to protect, preserve and enhance the parks and to offer peaceful enjoyment, recreation, entertainment and delight to their visitors.
We care about quality. The recent review of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, carried out by Dame Jennifer Jenkins identified the need for increased funding to tackle the severe backlog of urgent maintenance. We are extremely grateful to Dame Jennifer and her committee for the hard work that they have put into producing an excellent report on Hyde Park. We expect her further report on Green Park, St. James's and Regent's Park to he published shortly.