HC Deb 17 April 1879 vol 245 cc570-3

said, that in order to criticize the items of expenditure charged for the management of the Royal or Public Parks or Pleasure Grounds, it was necessary that the particulars should be included in the Account furnished annually to Parliament, instead of their being hid away in the Revenue Accounts of the Department of Woods and Forests. He was of opinion that Public Expenditure, so far as it related to the present subject, should be dealt with in the same manner as the expenditure relating to the estates of individuals. Supposing a nobleman or gentleman were to set aside any portion of his estate for the purposes of amusement, either for himself or others, the charge for maintaining that unproductive portion of the estate would all be put down to personal expenses, while, with regard to the remaining portion, from which income was expected to be derived, a land agent would be employed who would simply charge; a commission for management. Now, he (Mr. Dillwyn) ventured to think that if it was found that the particular part of the property from which income was expected to be derived was, from year to year, bringing only loss, and costing instead of producing money, the owner would very soon make a change in the management of that Department; he would either not put it down as a source of income, or he would change his agent, or else change his mode of managing that part of the estate. If, on looking into the matter, he found that the estate was unproductive because he wished to retain it for amusement, he would certainly not class it as a source of income, but as a personal expense. That was exactly what he (Mr. Dillwyn) thought should be done in the management of Public Revenues. To a certain extent our Parks and Public Buildings were estimated for, and when the money was voted lion. Members had an opportunity of criticizing details, and of seeing why the money had to be expended. We had placed certain portions of the National Estate under the Department of Woods and Forests, which might be considered our land agency for collecting the rents and handing over the balance due to us; but their Accounts, instead of giving the items and particulars, gave little more than the gross receipts and payments. It appeared that the balance of the land revenue, returned by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, amounted, in rough figures, to the large sum of £500,000 a-year. The management of the Parks and Forests was under two heads, and he thought that the latter Department—namely, that of the Royal Woods and Forests, could, if we chose, be made productive property, returning a large revenue. It appeared, by a Return of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, relating to the New Forest, Forest of Dean, &c, that the gross sum received for these properties amounted to £28,352, while the cost of management was £20,302, and that the balance which was therefore left to our credit amounted to £8,050—a very small amount of credit for all that property, which might be made to return a much greater amount. He did not, however, wish this property to be thus utilized, as he was in favour of retaining them in their present state; but he could not understand why these estates should be placed under the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, for it was a matter of importance to know how the great outlay for their management arose. He therefore thought that these items of expenditure should be brought under the cognizance of the House, and charged annually among the Estimates for the maintenance of Parks, by which an opportunity would be afforded of knowing whether the amounts were rightly and properly charged. He wished particularly to direct the attention of the House to the management of Windsor Park and Woods, which was placed under a separate head, and which resulted in a yearly loss of £20,990; the receipts for last year being £5,977, while the expenditure amounted to £26,968—an enormous sum of money to spend upon one Park. He did not at all mean to say that the money was improperly applied, nor did he wish that Windsor Park any more than the Public Forests should be utilized and made the most of in a business point of view, still less did he wish to see the Royal pleasure or convenience interfered with; but he did say that the Park and Forests should be economically managed, and that hon. Members had a right, to know whether such was the case. He could not help thinking that there must be some waste in the management of Windsor Park, which, though a large acreage, cost the large sum of £21,000 a-year. He wanted to know how that money was spent, and maintained that the charge ought no longer to remain in the Accounts of the land agents, as he might call the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, but that it ought to be brought before the House every year in the Estimates. This was his contention, and he urged it most respectfully upon the House and the Government. It was not his intention to take a Division on the Motion, because it was quite impossible at that time of the Session to alter the Account in the manner proposed; but he hoped the Government would see the propriety and necessity of what he had suggested, and frame future Estimates accordingly. He could never see way Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and Regent's Park should be put into the Estimates, while Windsor Park was excluded. He had asked for a Committee to investigate the annual Estimates before their consideration by the House; but it had been declined. There was, therefore, all the more reason that care should be taken to have the Estimates laid before the House in a business-like and proper manner. If Her Majesty's Government could give any good or sufficient reason why Windsor Park should be dealt with differently to the others, he should be satisfied; but if not, he trusted that some assurance would be given that an alteration would be made next year. As he was precluded by the Forms of the House from dividing upon his Amendment, he would only read the terms of his Motion— That, in the opinion of this House, any Royal or public park or pleasure Ground which is unremunerative by reason of its being used for purposes of recreation or ornament should be placed under the control of the First com- missioner of Works, and the amount required for its maintenance included in the annual Estimates for Parks and Pleasure Grounds, instead of (as in the case of Windsor Great Park) being placed under the Revenue Department of Woods and Forests. He concluded by emphatically repeating that he had no wish to curtail anything relating to the Parks that were used for Her Majesty's pleasure or convenience, or in any way to encroach upon what was retained for the public enjoyment.