HL Deb 25 June 1969 vol 303 cc148-51

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is in accordance with their policy to allow entertainments in the Royal Parks which attract audiences of 70,000 people, to the detriment of the usual amenities and the peaceful enjoyment of the Parks by other citizens; and whether the regulations of forbidding sleeping in the Parks when the Parks are closed were enforced on the night of 7th/8th June.]


My Lords, the Royal Parks are preserved as places where the public can enjoy relaxation and recreation. It has always been customary to allow a very limited number of events with special appeal and these last two summers concerts of popular music have been arranged as an experiment. The crowds attracted by these concerts are a measure of their popularity, especially with young people. The behaviour of audiences has been admirable, and comment on the particular event of June 7 has been overwhelmingly favourable. However, so many people remained in Hyde Park that it was recognised as impracticable to enforce the regulations inflexibly and clear the Park at night.


My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that rather unsatisfactory Answer. May I ask her whether Her Majesty's Government realise the risks to health, through quite inadequate lavatory accommodation, when large numbers of people sleep in the Park at night in a place where children are playing the next day?


Yes, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government are aware of these dangers; they are always there. Nevertheless, when any future occasion of this kind occurs, discussions will take Place between the organisers, police and park authorities about providing lavatories and so on. I am sure that the noble Lord will be glad to hear that considerable help has been offered by the organisers in connection with the collection of litter and the provision of extra lavatories.


My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government also consider whether the Royal Parks are suitable for this type of entertainment? Although it gives a lot of pleasure to a large number of young people, it prevents very large areas of the park from being used by other people.


At night?


My Lords, is not the implication of Lord Derwent's question that young people are inherently insanitary and objectionable objects and ought to be done away with?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness and the Government to resist this Tory attack on the right of assembly? Surely things have come to a pretty pass that when 70,000 youngsters go to a park and behave responsibly this House should be seen to be criticising them?


My Lords, I am glad to thank the noble Lord for that comment. In fact, I do not think the fears about disrupting ordinary activities in the Park are very great. There were four concerts last summer—only four. There may be three this summer. I think it right that the young should have as much enjoyment out of the Park as people of our perhaps more staid generation.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she would not agree that any contribution to the happiness of people and their consequent mental health far exceeds any derisory risk to their physical health?


My Lords, it is rather difficult to follow the noble Baroness right down that particular alley. I am quite sure that it is a good thing that the young should be able sometimes to have the use of the Parks for the sort of things in which they are most interested. The groups which play in the Park at these popular concerts are, in fact, internationally known. They are among the best of the groups. Their names may not be wholly familiar to your Lordships, but there were groups like the Cream, the Pink Floyd, the Move; and one which I am sure will delight noble Lords opposite—the Election: I am quite sure they would approve of that.


My Lords, I do not think anyone wishes in any way to criticise the provision of concerts of music in the Parks, for that is a traditional activity of the Minister of Works which I think everybody welcomes and which is generally much appreciated. But do the Government realise that the point to be considered is whether there might not be a difference of degree involved; and that a very large concourse, including many foreigners coming at a particular time to the parks——




My Lords, is that not rather different from the ordinary kind of concerts which are normally provided?


My Lords, it is true that the concerts we are discussing are different from military and brass band concerts which have been held previously. But as the noble Lord refers to foreigners I should like to tell him that the comment made by international observers has been that if concerts of this kind could have been held with such freedom in other places, all sorts of difficulties, academic and otherwise, might have been avoided.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether she would give an assurance that these concerts in the Royal Parks could not be considered in any way a rival to similar "Pop" concerts organised in the grounds of several stately homes?