HL Deb 06 December 1994 vol 559 cc823-4

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are satisfied with the work which has been carried out by the private companies responsible for the maintenance and development of Regent's Park.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor)

My Lords, we are satisfied with the work that has been carried out by the private companies responsible for the maintenance of Regent's Park. The Royal Parks Agency was established in April 1993 to manage and police the Royal Parks. Its chief executive retains responsibility for the development of Regent's Park.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that under the new management Regent's Park has been transformed? Not only are the recreational and refreshment facilities greatly improved, not only have very fine new gardens been laid out near the rose gardens, but the magnificent Avenue Gardens which are being built at present will be a tourist attraction in their own right. Is it not time that we paid tribute to the success of this policy instead of continually carping and criticising?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I am very grateful for my noble friend's support. Regent's Park is very successful. There are 9 million visitors to the park each year, and 47 million people visit all nine Royal Parks. As my noble friend said, there have been a number of improvements, including Avenue Gardens. There are also projected improvements for the future: finishing Avenue Gardens, improvements to St. John's Lodge Gardens and the water fowl care centre.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what reductions have been made in the staffing levels in the park since privatisation? Are the Government content with the levels of security which now prevail?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the level of staff provided by the contractors is, of course, a matter for the contractors. The important issue is that they do a good job, which they are doing. The Royal Parks Agency monitors the performance of the respective contractors. As regards policing, currently 172 policemen are responsible for the Royal Parks. Twenty-five constables, three sergeants and one inspector are responsible for Regent's Park.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, is there any significance in the fact that in his first reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, the noble Viscount repeated verbatim the wording of the Question except that he eliminated the words "and development"? In other words, he implied that the Government were not satisfied with the development work. Was that an oversight, or was it deliberate?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I compliment the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, for listening so acutely to the Answer that I gave. He picked up a fine point. I was not aware of that. I stick by both my answers.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, the Minister gave some interesting figures about the number of people who use the parks. Can he tell the House how those people are counted?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, that is indeed a very interesting question from the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. I am not entirely sure how they are counted. The answer is that they are not counted individually, but there are estimates of how many people visit the parks. I shall look into the matter and write to the noble Baroness.

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