HL Deb 08 July 1974 vol 353 cc454-7

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Parks Regulation (Amendment) Bill, has consented to place her Royal prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purpose of this Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a short Bill and I hope that it will not be a controversial one. Its purpose is to change the name of the park-keepers in the Royal Parks to park constables. Before I explain what that means, I should like to just go back to the Parks Regulation Act 1872, which covers the employment of these keepers. Under Section 5 of that Act, the keepers have the power when in uniform to arrest without a warrant any offender in the park whose name and residence is not known. Section 6 of the Act provides for a penalty of a £20 fine to be imposed by park-keepers together with, or instead of, a term of imprisonment of six months. Section 7 of the Act states that park-keepers have all the same powers, privileges and immunities, in respect of such duties and responsibilities as they carry out, as the police have in areas outside the Royal Parks.

The ten Royal Parks in which park-keepers are employed are not policed by police constables. The last one, Hyde Park, is policed by Metropolitan policemen, because there is a great deal more to do there; for example, troubles may arise from meetings at Speakers' Corner, from processions and so on. At the present time there are, I believe, 162 park-keepers in post. They are rather understaffed and I think that the Government and the Department of the Environment would like to see the number increased to about 180, or even more. The change in title is one that the park-keepers themselves feel explains rather better what their duties are at the present time. The general public tends to think of park-keepers as people who go around picking up paper and so on from the walks of a park, and not as police constables with some sort of control and authority.

This Bill has the active encouragement of the Department of the Environment and also, so I am told, of the Home Office—from the point of view of the Metropolitan Police—and of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as regards Kew Gardens, which is their responsibility. We hope that the passing of this Bill may result in increased recruitment to the ranks of the park-keepers or constables. There will be a change in the Schedule, because the park-keepers will be called upon to attest as constables in front of a justice of the peace, which, I think, means that they forgo some of their rights to industrial action if such a course may be suggested to them. I commend this Bill to your Lordships. I do not wish to take up any more time and, if the House will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading, I propose to move the remaining stages to-day so that it may become law before the end of the Parliamentary Session.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Amulree.)


My Lords, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has already informed the House that Her Majesty the Queen has graciously consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by this Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, on introducing this useful little measure, which I welcome on behalf of the Government. I would confirm what he has said—that park-keepers in the Royal Parks and gardens perform a very important role in the maintenance of law and order, in addition to protecting the amenities of the parks and gardens. It is indeed rather anomalous that they should still have a title which rather tends to give the impression of someone walking around with a stick, jabbing at and collecting pieces of paper. In fact, special staff are employed for this latter purpose. So it is that the term "park-keeper" is something of a misnomer these days and it has been found unhelpful when seeking new recruits. As we see it, this Bill ought to correct that misconception, and the change from "park-keeper ' to "park constable" will reflect more accurately the responsibilities of this quite invaluable force, and will assist in its maintenance at full strength.

I commend the Bill to your Lordships' House and hope it will have a speedy passage. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, has indicated that he will ask for this facility, not only in your Lordships' House but in another place.


My Lords, I welcome this Bill but I have just one question to ask. Shall we assume that these park-keepers, under their present title, are members of the National Union of Public Employees, the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, the Transport and General Workers' Union or some similar body? After they have been sworn in as special constables, we appreciate the fact that they have to surrender their right to go on strike. I now come to my question. Will they be required to give up membership of any trade union to which they may at present belong?


My Lords, I think that the reply to the noble Lord is that they will not be required to give up membership of a trade union. I have been in touch with the secretary of the trade union to which they belong—indeed, it was he who drew my attention to this proposed Bill and asked whether I would give it my support here—and I do not think that that would be the case.

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution), Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.