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Royal Parks (Trading) Bill

3.10 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe moved the amendment:

(" .-(1) The Secretary of State shall review and prepare a report On Review of Act. the operation of this Act.

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(2) In reviewing the operation of this Act the Secretary of State shall consult persons appearing to him to represent the users of royal parks and such other persons as he considers appropriate.
(3) The report shall contain details of-
(a) the number of-
(i) prosecutions, and
(ii) convictions, for park trading offences;
(b) the effect of this Act on trading within royal parks; and
(c) the cost of enforcing the law relating to park trading offences.
(4) The Secretary of State shall lay the report before each House of Parliament no later than eighteen months after the day on which this Act is passed.")

The noble Lord said: I do not wish to detain the Committee and shall therefore be brief. I have tabled the amendment with a view to protecting the monarchy. It proposes the insertion of a new clause asking for a report on the workings of the Bill when it becomes law.

We are all aware of the grotesque abuses that presently take place as regards unlicensed traders, and which must be curbed. I believe that the experience of implementing this legislation in the Royal Parks will be of great use to other areas in the country that suffer the same problem. Therefore, it is important that a report should be submitted to Parliament within a period of approximately 18 months on how the measure is working and how lessons can be learnt from it which can be applied to other parts of the country.

Why do I seek to publicise the matter in this way? There have been a large number of constitutional changes which we have not even had time to digest. Yet Members of the Committee will recently have received a further communication from Charter 88 with the rather pretentious title Unlocking Democracy, outlining a whole set of further demands. I do not believe that these people will give up even if these demands are satisfied.

I raise the matter because the body of the report contains a very sour paragraph about the monarchy, written in a distasteful manner. Only yesterday in another place, during the Statement on the Civil List, the first Back-Bencher on the government side to speak was the Member for Cannock Chase, who drew attention to the fact that it was not possible to reduce the amount of money paid to the Crown and called this into question.

These are sinister portents. The Member for Cannock Chase is a member of the Constitution Unit council. He is also chairman of the All-Party Constitution and Citizenship Group. An examination of the group's details indicates, under the heading "Benefits from outside sources", that,

    "Administrative support is provided by Charter 88".

We are faced with what in vulgar parlance--I would not dream of using the expression in this place--

Lord Strabolgi: What has this to do with the Bill, which is about controlling itinerant traders in St James's Park and other parks?

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: I hope to satisfy my noble friend with my denouement--that is one of the shreds of my French vocabulary!

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I believe that we are again being bounced into further constitutional change. But this time, I believe that the monarchy will be one of the targets for attack. Therefore, to come to my noble friend's point, it is important that it is not possible to use as future ammunition the idea that, while everyone else has to put up with illegal traders and nothing is done about it, in the case of the Royal Parks a special Bill was rushed through Parliament with a guillotine Motion in another place. The production of a report on the workings of the legislation will be helpful to other parts of the country where a similar problem arises. That is the thinking behind my amendment. Instead of being attacked as elitist, the passage of this legislation could be seen as a public service. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Briefly, I accept--

Lord Strabolgi: Before the Front Bench?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I was not intending to pre-empt the noble Lord. As this is Committee, I merely intended to give a response. However, I always give way to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.

Lord Strabolgi: I am sorry to have to disagree with my noble friend. I served under him in the 1974-79 government and he was a very fine Chief Whip. I was puzzled about the amendment and his reason for tabling it. I am afraid that most of his speech has not illuminated me.

St James's Park, the main park where there is a problem, was laid out by John Nash in the early years of the 19th century on behalf of George IV. But that was almost the last connection with the monarchy and the Royal Family, which seems to be exercising my noble friend.

At present, the Royal Parks are administered by the Royal Parks Agency, which comes under the Department of the Environment. The Bill is necessary in order to control the itinerant traders who have proliferated in St James's Park in recent times. Almost 20 can now be counted. They are unlicensed. They sell hot food, mostly sausages cooked in cheap and bad fat, which makes a dreadful smell and pollutes the most beautiful of all the parks. Indeed, St James's is probably one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Not only are the smells unpleasant; the food itself is dangerous and unhealthy. It is sometimes bought by unsuspecting tourists who, I am afraid, may suffer from it.

The Bill closes a loophole in the legislation. At present, Westminster City Council has the right to control such traders in the streets around the park, but it has no control over the park itself. The council can impose a fine, but it is derisory. Most of the traders are controlled by one small company. They are often refugees and others who have entered the country illegally.

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My noble friend's amendment is unnecessary. All Acts are reviewed from time to time. Subsection (3)(a) of the proposed new clause states that,

    "the report shall contain details of ... the number of prosecutions and convictions".

If there are any convictions, it will surely mean that the legislation was necessary. If there are none, I hope that the noble Lord will not come forward and say that it should be rescinded. It is probable that the Government could themselves issue a report after a certain period to see how the legislation was working. I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I appreciate the good intentions which lie behind the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cocks. Although he did not speak at Second Reading, I am aware that he was present throughout and listened to the debate. Therefore, he will be aware that I and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, are keen to close a loophole whereby currently it is impossible for people who push trolleys around the Royal Parks, as opposed to the owners, to be prosecuted as a result of the case of Kol Curri last May.

I made it clear during Second Reading that I wished the Bill a fair wind. I hope that the Government are able to provide a response to the request of the noble Lord without the need for anything to be put on the face of the Bill. We on this Front Bench cannot support an amendment that requires the Bill to return to the Commons, thus lengthening the time taken before the Bill becomes law. As an individual, I have given my word to the Friends of the Royal Parks Forum that I shall do all in my power, within the rules of the House, to give the Bill a fair wind. I seek to keep my word in all cases. Like the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, will be minded to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am sure that my noble friend Lord Cocks will understand if I respond to the amendment rather than to those parts of his speech which did not refer to it. I assure my noble friend that these are not unprecedented powers. The powers proposed under the Bill are already available to the City of Westminster under the City of Westminster Act 1999. One of the reasons that matters have become worse in the Royal Parks is that illegal traders have moved there from Westminster, where the controls are stricter.

The Government want to review the operation of the legislation after it has been in operation for, say, 18 months to assess both its effectiveness in the Royal Parks and any impact outside them. I am happy to give my noble friend an assurance now that such a report will be prepared and that its conclusions will be announced to both Houses. My noble friend may wish to table a Question in the House when the time comes. In the meantime, I hope that my noble friend will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: In response to my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, I did not like his reference to

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serving under me. I always thought that he served with me as part of a great team. I thank the noble Baroness for her observations and completely understand her position. I also thank the Minister for giving me the assurance that I seek. The position is most satisfactory, and I am sure that it will assist people in other parts of the country who face the same problem. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.

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