HL Deb 28 July 1926 vol 65 cc333-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill is intended to amend the Parks Regulation Act, 1872, and its essence is contained in subsection (1) of Section 2, which gives the Commissioners of Works power to make regulations for the proper management of the parks and the preservation of order and the prevention of abuses in the parks. It applies, of course, to the parks under the jurisdiction of the Department. It applies also to Kew Gardens, which for some reason that I do not quite appreciate was transferred in the past to the care of the Ministry of Agriculture. I need hardly say that any regulations made under this Bill will be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament and can be objected to in the usual way by Resolution.

I must say a word or two as to why I am introducing this Bill. The old Act under which the Office of Works has been operating for some time was passed in 1872, 54 years ago. The object of that Act was to give power to the Office of Works to preserve order in the parks and generally to make everything easy and comfortable for law-abiding persons. The method adopted was to draw up regulations and embody them in the Schedule to the Act. Any one infringing those regulations could be brought before a court of summary jurisdiction. That was a very useful Act at the time because before its passing the Commissioners had only a, very vague and ill-defined power of removing from the parks any person whose conduct appeared to be unsatisfactory. The fact that these regulations were once and for all drawn up and put into a Schedule has, of course, tied the hands of the Commissioners. The regulations prohibit certain things altogether and they prohibit other things except in accordance with the rules of the park. Other additional and supplementary rules were contemplated and the Commissioners have from time to time made such rules, but the Act was so worded that it has been held that such rules can be enforced by summons before the magistrates only when they relate to matters specifically mentioned ill the Schedule. If they relate to other matters there remains only that ill-defined power which existed before the passing of the Act of 1872 of removing the offender.

When the Act was passed over 50 years ago naturally all the conditions that might prevail to-day were not foreseen. I do not wish to give a list of subjects or the directions in which the powers of the Department are curtailed because that would probably be an invitation to ill-disposed persons to try to infringe them, but. I will give one instance which I think is fairly familiar. It is in connection with litter in the parks. There is a rule against scattering litter, but this rule, like other rules, depends ultimately for its sanction on prosecution and in the last resort is a dead letter. There is no effective remedy at all. There is no effective remedy even against persons who defy the park-keepers and persist in repeating the offence. Those who are familiar with our parks—and it is not necessary at this time of day for me to descant on the beauty of the parks—will realise in what an absurd position that places our park-keepers. The Department also is placed in the humiliating position of having no real power to prevent people coming into the parks and defacing them with litter. I have spoken about the central parks, but these rules would apply, if passed, to Regents Park, Victoria Tower Gardens, Greenwich Park, Richmond Park, Hampton Court and Bushey Park, and in Scotland to Holyrood Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, and Lin-lithgow Peel. They would apply also, of course, to Kew Gardens under the Ministry of Agriculture.

What I feel is that in the interests of the public and in order to keep the parks in a fine condition it is really necessary that the Department should have power to manage them in a proper manner. The London County Council have full power to make by-laws generally for the good rule and government of the parks, gardens and open spaces with which they are concerned, and, subject to the approval by Parliament of the rules themselves, we are really asking that we should have as much power as the London County Council have in regard to their own parks. The only point I should like to add is this. It has been suggested that these powers are necessary in order to curtail the privileges of public speaking in the parks. I can only say that under the Act of 1872 we have ample power, if we wanted to do it, either to regulate or to put a stop to public speaking in the parks. Therefore, in this Act we are not taking any more power and we shall get no more power under it than we have at present. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading in order to confer the powers upon us that we really require to enforce effectively our rules for good conduct in the parks.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª—(Viscount Peel.)


My Lords, the noble Viscount has explained to your Lordships some of the reasons for this Bill. I should like him, if he would be good enough to do so, to give us a little more information. The specific instance which he named as leading the Government to desire this Bill was the problem, I think, of litter about the parks. That is not a new problem and I shall be glad to know whether, apart from that, there are any other new specific circumstances or facts which have led to the introduction of this Bill. I was very much relieved to hear what he said in his concluding observations with regard to speaking or speakers in the parks and to have, as I understand it, from him an assurance that there is nothing in this Bill and that it is not intended to do anything under this Bill with regard to speaking or speakers in the parks; because if there had been any such intention I think that a very smooth passage could not have been expected for the Bill. A further question I should like to ask is this. I do not quite understand why the Bill is introduced now. Is it intended to send it down to another place before the Recess? I should imagine not, and if it is not intended to do that why is it introduced now? Why cannot we wait until after the Recess? There may be some explanation for this, and I think we are entitled to have it. The last question I would put to the noble Viscount is this. Assuming that the Bill receives a Second Reading at your Lordships' hands when would he suggest taking the Committee stage?


My Lords, the noble Lord first asked me why the Bill is introduced at this time. I think it is always rather difficult to give a direct answer to a question of that kind. I have been looking for an opportunity to introduce this Bill for some months and this is the first occasion on which I have found it possible to do so. I hope, of course, that the Bill will go as soon as possible to another place. I cannot possibly hope to pass it through all its stages before the Recess, but the noble Lord knows enough of Parliamentary business to know that you must seize an opportunity whenever you can to get your little Bill in, otherwise it is swamped by larger measures. After the Recess this House will be occupied with very large measures coming up from another place and that is my general answer. Then the noble Lord asked me about the Committee Stage. I had hoped to take the Committee Stage, if possible, on Monday, but that is a matter that perhaps can be arranged between the authorities concerned.

The noble Lord further asked me if I could give a number of other reasons for introducing this Bill. I gave one example, which I thought might be a comparatively harmless example. I do not want to give a list of the cases where it might be necessary to bring in rules, for this reason. We have had a rather interesting example lately in connection with tipsters. Statements appeared in the Press that they were enabled to go into the park and make their speeches urging people to engage in such and such speculations and were able to go outside and do their business. Of course, as soon as attention is called to this nuisance there is a considerable increase of it and for that reason the noble Lord will, perhaps, forgive me for saying anything further until these matters appear in the rules. When they appear in the rules, which have to be laid on the Tables of both Houses, your Lordships and members of another place will be able to discuss them and consider whether they ought to be passed or not.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.