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 Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I shall first summarise the argument and adduce it later. The point behind the Bill is simply that, without in any way infringing on the main purpose of the Royal Parks which are situated in the middle of busy London, I want to remove the existing statutory embargo which prevents them from being usefully used in the national interest when the occasion arises.
At present, because of the terms of the Crown Lands Act, 1829, not even a small part of the parks can be enclosed and admission charged for entry to that enclosure. It ought to be made possible for the Minister of Public Building and Works to be allowed to do this if he considers at any time that a case presented to him justifies his so doing. At present he cannot do it even if he thinks that it is desirable so to do. I want to make it possible for him to use his discretion.
London is the centre of tourism. It earns us a considerable income, but we must face the fact, as recent reports have shown, that the income of Continental countries and other countries which cater for tourists is even greater than our own and that our relative share of the increasing tourist traffic is decreasing.
Such things as son et lumière, dancing displays and circuses, could be accommodated on, say, the football pitches in parks, which are not in use in the summer, without infringing on the general purpose of the parks. The parks are delightful. Their general purpose should be preserved. I submit that the activities I have listed could be carried out in parks, in the national interest, without in any way weakening the pleasure that other people get from parks.
That is a summary of the terms of the Bill. I believe that this is a matter the desirability of which can be mutually agreed on both sides of the House. If it is desirable, it is outside the party field. It ought to be mutually agreed. Therefore, there is no question of my pushing the Bill to a vote. If the Minister is not prepared to accept the terms of the Bill as they are now set out, I hope that he will find my argument worthy of his further consideration and that, even if he cannot accept the present terms of the Bill, he will be able to accept that the idea is one which he could usefully pursue from his appropriate office.
The one thing, apart from defence, which is fundamental to this country's continued development, and to the maintenance of the standard of living we have now come to expect, is that we ensure that the balance of trade figures is right. I am certain that if as an industrial nation we can get to the point where we are selling more than we are buying, or, at any rate, not buying more than we actually sell, there is a chance that we can continue to improve our general standards. I believe that this Bill pinpoints what I admit is a very tiny section of the potential that we have for increasing our income, but I believe that it is a section which is important and which will become even more important.
Everybody is aware of the advantages of selling a motor car or a machine tool or a ship and having the income which that sale brings to help our balance of trade figures. These things are accepted and are applauded. In recent years such invisible exports as banking, insurance and such things have become equally acceptable and are applauded. There is no doubt that invisibles. as well as the actual sale of motor cars, assist very definitely in maintaining our balance of trade figures. However, the service industries and entertainment industries seem to carry with them some sort of stigma which is unjustified and which I think is reaching the point of being stupid. In the modern world there are increased facilities for travel. Publications, television and radio excite and inform people as to what is going on in the world. There is also increased leisure. If we add all that together, it becomes clear that the tourist industry is now very large indeed, and in a few years' time it will be colossal.
The earnings from the service industries which go to serve the tourist trade should receive our constant thoughts, and Governments, whatever their party complexion, should be giving constant consideration to the task of helping the service industries to get an even larger share of world tourism which carries with it the potential of vast earnings. Official sources have reported that the proportion of world tourism enjoyed by this country is getting smaller. Our share of tourism went up from something like £135 million in 1957 to £193 million in 1965, but we find that the number of our own people who went abroad—5 million of them in 1965—spent £290 million, so that on balance we spent more in foreign currency—about £100 million more than we earned.
The Minister of State, Board of Trade, last November stated categorically that the relative proportion of Britain's share of world tourism was actually falling short of many of the other countries which also seek to attract tourists. We have got to correct that situation. It is vital that we should. There is every inducement to people to come to this country. Years ago when tourists came to this country, because of the mode of travel which then existed, if they came to London, for example, they would stay for a week or more. Now that we have the fashion of popping into aeroplanes, package deals and things of that sort, tourists come for one, two or three days at the outside and then they go on to the Continent. unless we can make conditions so attractive here during the tourist season that visitors stay longer. part of the tourists' money which could be spent here to help our balance of trade figures will be spent abroad.
We, therefore, have this vital question—I recognise that my Bill deals with only a tiny fraction of it—of recognising the great potential that exists in tourist traffic and of ensuring that we get our fair share of it. For that reason in the past I have criticised Governments—I have no doubt that I shall do so in the future—which give the impression of discriminating against the service industries which are in a position to take advantage of this tourist spending. I believe that we ought to give the investment allowances back to the hotels.
I am very eager to adhere to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I understand your difficulty, and mine too. I want to put my case within the framework which the Government ought to have in mind. We have in the middle of London parks which give much pleasure to our own nationals. Londoners in particular look upon them as their own parks, but, in fact, they are not the Londoners' parks. These are national parks. They are Royal Parks, and the royal prerogative stretches over the whole of the country. I urge that we look upon the Royal Parks as a national asset, a national possession, and not merely as a London possession. I suggest in my Bill that it is possible for these parks, situated where they are, to be used to help meet this great national need of preserving our balance of trade without in any way interfering with the general amenities of the parks.
At present under the Crown Lands Act, 1929, they cannot be enclosed and an admission charge cannot be made with a view to enabling them to play their part in meeting what I have described as the nation's need. I am asking that instead of it being verboten, as it is under the Crown Lands Act, for them to be used in this way, we shall enable a Minister of the Crown to use his discretion and decide when they can be so used. When I was in the Ministry of Public Building and Works, I was asked to go to the Palace of Versailles to look at son et lumière which proved to be a great attraction and which I have no doubt earned a considerable income, I felt that if son et lumière could be used at the Palace of Versailles and at many other chateaux in France without interfering with their dignity and general atmosphere, something on those lines could be introduced in Hyde Park or in other Royal Parks and thus attract people to London, particularly from abroad, who are interested in our history.
I have not come to that yet. The hon. Genleman is too eager. The Title of the Bill is Tourist Trade Facility Bill. It is that aspect of it which I emphasise because that is the part which is really important. if we could have son et lumière or dancing displays in such a centre, as happens in other capitals, there would be no question of infringing the nature of the parks, and it would be an extra amenity with possibilities of earning income for this country.
I use the circus as an example. I have to confess that I made a mistake in the framing of the Bill when I presented it on 8th November. I intended the reference to circuses only as an example of the sort of thing which could be introduced into the park on the football pitch for a limited period without in any way infringing the amenities of the park. I find that, in my eagerness to get it on the record, the specific reference to circuses was printed in the Bill. Because I expected the Minister to resist any specific item such as a circus, I opened today by saying that I would not push the question to a vote and I hoped that the Second Reading would have the effect of making the general argument clear to the right hon. Gentleman, inspiring him later on to produce something along these lines which would achieve the general purpose, which is unassailable, without bringing in any narrow reference to the circus itself.
Unfortunately, the inclusion of reference to a circus in my original Bill has meant that animal lovers and those who are opposed to circuses on other grounds have objected. I wanted to clear away the thought that these provisions were designed merely for circuses. The whole idea is that we should give power to an accredited Minister of the Crown to use his discretion on those occasions when he thought that we could use the park for the nation's good without in any way interfering with the general amenities.
I urge upon the Minister that, whether he accepts these words or whether, later on, he brings in other words which he thinks will achieve the same object without narrowing the issue to the specific points made in the Bill, he should use his authority as a senior Minister to see to it that, whenever the service industries are in a position to earn foreign currency for us, past prejudice is not allowed to interfere with our opportunities of doing just that. We cannot afford to lose one iota of effort which would make some contribution towards keeping our balance of trade up to the point at which we can afford to maintain the standard of life which we have built up so far.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) submitted his Bill in such a disarming way that it may seem a little churlish if I say at once that I am definitely opposed to it. Most of his speech was in support of two Bills neither of which is before the House. First, he submitted the case, which may or may not be valid, that at present there are certain restrictions on the power of the Minister regarding the user of the parks and that those restrictions should be removed. He did not substantiate that case. I am sure that, had he done so, the Minister would have considered it most seriously.
The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to make a case for the extension of facilities available to tourists.
If that is so, I am certain that the Minister will note the point and consider whether any action on his part is required.
This brings me to my first point, which has been made already by the hon. Gentleman himself, that the Title of the Bill is a misnomer. The title Tourist Trade Facility Bill gives no indication of the intent and purpose of the Measure before us. Although the hon. Gentleman said a good deal about the need, which we all accept, to attract more tourists to this country, he failed to show that this Bill, if passed, would contribute to that end. I hope to show why it would not.
The very fine group of open spaces which we have in the centre of London, the Royal Parks are one of the features which in themselves attract visitors to London, one of the features which visitors most often remember and to which constant reference is made—this is certainly my experience—when one talks to people abroad who have been to London. They are impressed by our wonderful range of parks. I doubt that the provision of a circus in any of the parks would be an added attraction.
Second, the Bill is permissive. The House awaits with interest what the Minister will have to say about the new responsibility which it would put upon him. Since 1851, in the time of the old Office of Works, his Department and its predecessors have managed the London parks in the interests of the nation as a whole. The parks have given enormous pleasure to a great number of people, and, as the years have gone by, the Department has provided sporting and recreational facilities so that the maximum use could be made of them.
Apart from the interruption of war and other special causes, the parks have remained at the disposal principally of the citizens of London. We should remember that the citizens of London have been very jealous of what had become prescriptive rights for them long before the formal transfer to the old Office of Works. Even if the Bill were passed in its present form, the Minister would have to think very carefully before exercising the powers which would be conferred on him. He might recall, for example, what happened when Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, after proposing to enlarge the grounds of Kensington Palace to include what is now Kensington Gardens, explained to the Prime Minister of the day that she had similar designs upon St. James's Park and asked Sir Robert Walpole what it would cost. He drily replied, "Only a Crown, Ma'am".
As the hon. Gentleman recognised, this is a controversial proposal. We have to consider not just what the hon. Gentleman said about improving facilities for tourists but the sole and limited purpose of his Bill, which is to enable a circus to be provided in London's parks. A circus, of course, is much more than a "big top". There is a vast amount of paraphernalia attached to them nowadays—cages for the animals, caravans for trainers and attendants, accommodation for performers, and so on. There is the movement of heavy vehicles to and from the site. Gas, water, electricity and other services have to be laid on. Apart from all that, which in itself involves a large amount of equipment, facilities must he provided for the visitors—space for their cars, catering facilities, toilet facilities and the like. These could not be restricted to a small area. They would necessarily affect the atmosphere of the park used, and the noise and disturbance would cover a very wide area indeed.
The Bill refers to the right to permit a circus in Royal Parks being exercised during appropriate seasons. I think that the hon. Member for Peterborough would acknowledge that the only practical season for this, particularly if it is to attract tourists, is during the summer. We all know from our experience that on fine summer days the parks in London are used to their maximum. If one wanders over to St. James's Park during a summer day one finds almost every inch of space occupied. I do not wish to say much about the objections to circuses as such because I would not regard them as decisive if there were no other sound reasons, but here again is a factor which the Minister would have to take into account in considering whether to exercise his powers under the Bill.
The hon. Member for Peterborough freely admitted that he has not made a case for this Measure. I therefore hope that the House will reject it.
I wish only to emphasise some of the points that have been made.
This is referred to as a tourist industry Measure. I should have thought that it would be more correct to refer to it as an Expropriation of Hyde Park Measure. In considering the use to which the parks should be put, I would confine myself to the only park which borders on my constituency, Hyde Park. I do not know where it would be proposed to put the big top—and it would have to be a very big top if it were to be of any use in London. Where would space be found to put the vehicles involved? How would the traffic get away so that it did not add to the existing traffic, which is bad enough? How would one provide the various services which are necessary for an enterprise of this kind?
I wish to refer to only one specific item. After the war, when there was a desperate need for housing, the House decided that there should be no incursion certainly on Hyde Park for housing purposes. Important though tourism is, I cannot think that it approaches the need that there was for housing at that time.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Carol Johnson) made the point that no case has been made for the need to make a contribution to tourism in London. I listened with considerable care for such a need, but no such need was referred to. I do not know what parks other than Hyde Park would be of the slightest use in this connection. Regent's Park has other uses and is not large enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) gave no indication of any other parks which might be useful.
I very much hope that the House will not give even a Second Reading to the Bill.
I was very encouraged to hear the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) make it quite clear that he was not going to press the Second Reading of this Bill. This is the only encouraging thing about it.
Perhaps it would be of value to consider whether we are making the best possible use of some of the open spaces, not only in London, but in other cities. We are pleased that, on the whole, a great deal of use is made of the Royal Parks. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Carol Johnson) referred to sports facilities. A large number of games are played in Regent's Park, where pitches are -laid out. This is admirable, and I am very much in favour of it. I should be pleased to hear the Minister say that he would gladly consider the possibility of extensions of this kind. However, this has nothing, or very little, to do with the Bill.
There is already a zoo, if not in Regent's Park, then precious near to it. There is also a theatre in Regent's Park. How that came to develop, I do not know. This suggests that there are uses to which our famous parks can be put other than those suggested by the hon. Member for Peterborough.
There is the serious point that we want to try to encourage the widest use and enjoyment of these areas without spoiling the facilities which already exist. If one looks at what the Bill says and not at what the hon. Member for Peterborough said he meant, one would think quite seriously on the question of what is the most suitable place for circuses. I am very much in favour of circuses; I enjoy circuses. I live in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where we have the good fortune to have the enormous space of our Town Moor, much the moot attractive open space in the north of England, if not in the whole of Britain. There we accommodate circuses as well as fairs and other forms of enjoyment and entertainment. Discussions are going on as to how we can make even greater use of this enormous open space.
We should consider whether there are adequate facilities for circuses and other forms of entertainment of this kind in London. If there are not, we must consider how we can best them. I should have thought that there was great interest in the proposed development of, for example, the Lea Valley, where it is intended to have a wide range of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities. I should have thought that this was an area where provision might be made for accommodating things of the kind which the hon. Member for Peterborough has in mind. There might well be other areas in London which could be developed in a similar way.
I do not wish anyone to imagine that we on this side of the House oppose the idea of providing proper facilities for things of this kind. But we certainly do not feel that the Royal Parks are the right place for them. Even if one rather rashly assumes that the hon. Member for Peterborough meant what is in the Bill, he still seemed to be under the delusion that the Long Title of the Bill referred to other things. In fact, the Long Title says that this is a Bill to
permit a circus in Royal Parks at appropriate seasons".
That is what we have to discuss, not what the hon. Member said.
I am delighted to understand that the hon. Gentleman is not moving this Bill. I am pleased that we have been given the opportunity to consider whether we are making the fullest possible use of our open spaces in view of the changes which have taken place in the ways in which people want to enjoy themselves. It seems to me that the Royal Parks are very well and fully used, and I hope that that will continue to be the case.
So far you will have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that no hon. Member apart from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) has spoken in favour of the Bill. Perhaps I could give it a side-handed compliment by saying that it is very important that we have given the opportunity to discuss the Royal Parks, because it gives me the opportunity to follow up two Questions which I put down some time ago on facilities in our central parks.
Most people would agree that Regent's Park is perhaps the finest example of our Royal Parks. It has facilities, as was mentioned, for an open-air theatre. But much more important in terms of tourist attraction is the very excellent restaurant that exists there as compared with the scruffy facilities which are to be found in St. James's Park or even the scruffier facilities to be found in Greenwich Park. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend, in answer to Questions a few weeks ago, said that he was looking into this, and I know that things are moving.
I should like to emphasise that a lot of tourist money is being lost to this country. Those of us who stroll through the Royal Parks during high summer have noticed the attraction provided by the Palace, the bands that play at lunchtime, and the Changing of the Guard. Millions of people during the course of summer find their way into St. James's Park, and they queue like mad to buy a scruffy sandwich at not very cheap prices, in most unhygienic circumstances, with the toughest pigeons in the world around to share it.
Yes. My hon. Friend is right about Hyde Park. My argument is directed to St. James's Park and to Greenwich Park. It is a great shame that St. James's Park is neglected in this way. So I make an appeal to my right hon. Friend to improve the refreshment facilities there. I should like to see a restaurant provided very much like the one in Regent's Park. It would make a good deal of money.
I make the same appeal for Greenwich Park, a much neglected Royal Park. Thousands of dollar-tourists visit the Royal Park at Greenwich, but, here again the facilities are appalling. Even in high summer it is difficult to get a cup of tea after five o'clock because they want to close the place.
The position at the moment is that the right hon. Gentleman could himself enclose an area for a restaurant and things of that sort, but he is not in a position to get somebody else, who is perhaps better fitted for the job, to provide the facilities. I would ask the Minister whether he will allow other people, with the necessary experience, to do a job which he is not qualified to do.
I am not sure whether that is right. My understanding is that the restaurant in Regent's Park is run by a well-known and reputable restaurateur, but perhaps my right hon. Friend can deal with that. My appeal is on the question of restaurant facilities. A great opportunity is being missed here, and I hope that it will be looked into urgently.
I am unable to support the hon. Member's Bill. The most attractive features of our Royal Parks are their pleasant setting steeped in our ancient history. I welcome the Bill in that it has enabled discussion on the subject. Even if you were to push it to a vote, I would not join you in the Lobby.
I wish to intervene very briefly in the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) on the way in which he moved the Bill, and I appreciate his very real interest in the tourist trade. Nonetheless, I must make it clear that I would not be able to support the Bill. I well recall when I was in the position which he occupied at one time the very considerable pressures that were upon the Minister of Public Building and Works to release part of the Royal Parks for various purposes desirable in themselves. I remember being pressed at one time to release a part of Hyde Park for a golf driving range. I also recall being pressed to allow an exhibition on a semi-permanent basis in connection with Shakespeare to take place in the same area. The line which I took, and which the then Minister of Public Building and Works took, was firmly to resist all these proposals.
I must say that we were helped in our resistance, not only against the private person who wanted to set up an enterprise of this kind, but also against the public authority, by the existence of the present law which restricts the powers of the Minister of Public Budding and Works to release land for this purpose. It is not only private enterprise which wishes to take over parts of the Royal Parks for various purposes. The Minister will appreciate what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots), about the pressure which existed shortly after the war to use the Royal Parks for housing purposes, and also the pressure which I am sure both he and the previous Minister of Public Building and Works have had from the Minister of Transport to take over part of the Royal Parks for traffic purposes.
The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams) referred to the question of restaurants in the parks and, as one who played some part in the development of the new restaurants in Regent's Park and in the central parks, I wish to refer to that subject very briefly. The hon. Member spoke about Green Park. There is a case for redevelopment of that restaurant, but I am sure the Minister appreciates the very real difficulties involved in the redevelopment of that restaurant, where very limited space is available, and at the same time keeping the very special amenities which exist in St. James's Park. It is a very difficult problem to try to marry the two. Nevertheless, I sympathise with the point made made by the hon. Member for Horn-church. I hope that the Minister will look at this matter again, as well as the very real difficulties over catering which exist in Greenwich Park.
The central parks in London are a priceless asset to this city. I do not know of any other city in the world which provide the unspoilt green spaces which exist in the central parks in London and with the same amount of open space available to all. One of the things which draws tourists to our City is the wide open spaces and the amount of greenery, available. Many people comment upon the feeling of space which exists in our Royal Parks.
In conclusion, I hope—and I say this with confidence—that the Minister will indicate his determination to fight in the same way as his predecessors have done for the sanctity of our priceless asset, the central parks of London.
I wish only to make a very brief contribution to the debate. I believe that the Bill is quite useless in the sense of trying to do something serious to attract tourists, and the revenue that comes from tourists, to London.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham South (Mr. Carol Johnson) said that the Royal Parks already provided a great attraction for tourists. They do to a degree, without doubt, but what is more important is that they are providing facilities for the existing population of London.
The Bill, in its narrow sense, attempts to give permission for the Minister to allow circuses to erect their tents and provide performances in the Royal Parks. This will not necessarily be an attraction to tourists, because a great number of foreign visitors take the same view as a great number of our own population, that circuses themselves, because they employ animals for training and performing for profit, are a bad thing. Therefore, I do not think the Bill would necessarily achieve the hon. Gentleman's object.
The intention of the Bill should be not only to help our balance of payments by bringing foreign visitors to London but also to bring to London from all over the country our own citizens who ought to be able to come to London to enjoy the facilities and visit the great historic parks, and even this House. It has been suggested to me that if they want to see a circus performing they could come to no better place than this building, particularly now that the ringmaster has cracked the whip.
I accept the hon. Gentleman's statement that 5,000,000 of our people go abroad for their holidays, though I should have thought that the figure was a little higher. A very large percentage of them go abroad to enjoy the very healthy recreation of camping. I am not necessarily convinced that it would be a good thing to open our Royal Parks for circuses. However, we should open them not only for foreign visitors who can come in with their currency to help us over our economic difficulties but for our own people so that they can come to the centre of London and pitch their tents or put their caravans here and enjoy the facilities that are available in this great metropolis. I believe that this would serve a useful purpose in broadening the appeal of the Royal Parks. One of the difficulties experienced in attracting visitors to London is that there are no facilities for the vastly increasing number of people who want to camp or move around in caravans on their visits to this country. I believe that we could make a tremendous contribution to our foreign currency earnings if we could liven up our local authorities, and also some of our Ministers, to make facilities available for campers.
Camping is a very healthy activity in which to engage. I should declare an interest here in that I am an active camper. I camp as often as possible, certainly on every holiday.
I do not know about that one.
If we could make the Royal Parks open from time to time to our youth movements, the Scouts and the Guides for international jamborees, would it not be a great help to our balance of payments, as well as making possible enjoyment of the facilities in the Royal Parks?
I hope that the Minister will take my remarks seriously about making the facilities of the Royal Parks available as widely as possible from time to time and giving encouragement to local authorities to provide facilities for our own people and visitors who want to enjoy the healthy, happy relaxation of camping, with the low capital cost involved. It would be a good thing if they could have facilities in the centre of London from time to time so that they could enjoy themselves and also contribute to our balance of payments.
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. There was a site at Crystal Palace, but it is no longer available for that sort of activity. I cannot recall the last time when there was a World Scout Jamboree in Hyde Park. I should certainly like to think that there was a possibility of one being held there in the very near future if the Minister could make the park available and persuade the Scout Movement to avail itself of the facilities.
I would emphasise that if we want, as I believe the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) does, to make available the open spaces in London for the purpose of encouraging foreign exchange to come here we must cater for the people who want to camp.
I oppose the Bill because for many years I have opposed the training of animals for exhibition for entertainment. It is felt that performing animals give children an entirely false impression and that they are of no educational value whatever.
Many aspects are often overlooked in considering this subject. While some of the animals are bred in captivity, others are taken from their natural habitat and frequently transported many thousands of miles in far from satisfactory conditions. All hon. Members will know of the appalling sights when aircraft arrive here from India with loads of rhesus monkeys and so on, many dying from suffocation. That type of thing is perpetuated by circuses.
I want to refer to the action of some local authorities and to commend the local authorities to which I shall refer for having taken the actions of which I shall speak—
I was simply trying to make the point that there are many local authorities which are progressive thinkers in respect of circuses and have banned the use of their land for such performances. As recently as 20th February Wilmslow Urban District Council adopted a resolution which will ban for ever the exhibition of animals for entertainment on any of its land.
The capture of animals is often left entirely to natives, and the method of capture leaves much to be desired. It should not be assumed that I am introducing any sort of colour bar, but native peoples are not necessarily the most humane, and circuses are concerned only with having animals captured alive without any broken limbs, eyes put out and so on. Circuses are not concerned at all about the cruelty that is practised in the capture.
Many people assume that because their pet dog stands up and begs for a bone and does similar tricks no suffering is involved when animals are taught to do tricks. The household pet being encouraged to beg for a bone is a vastly different affair from a lion being driven to jump through a hoop of fire at a precise time and to a precise beat of music from a circus band.
The late Professor Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell stressed this point when giving evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Performing Animals in 1921–22. He said:
If at a quarter past eight in the evening, when the curtain goes up, you have to get your animals on the stage and do the trick at once, lest the manager and the public be discontented, then, in my experience, there is the gravest possible risk that there has been cruelty, not only in training the animal, but continuous cruelty in keeping the animal up to the mark for these—what may be called time performances.
Evidence of cruelty was given to the Select Committee by eye-witnesses who had actually been employed in circuses, and there is no reason to believe that the methods of training have seen any drastic change since then.
It is, of course, extremely difficult to secure up-to-date evidence of cruelty be-
cause a good deal of the training is carried out abroad and where it is done in this country it is conducted within private grounds where inspectors of the animal protection societies are not allowed access. If any evidence is needed, however, of the cruelty that exists in both training and performance of circus animals, I can do no better than quote from the book written by Alfred Court, that great animal trainer. It was published in 1954 and is called," Wild Animals in Circuses". Mr. Court writes:
If an animal attacks, he must be given a severe enough correction for him to realise from the first encounter that he is not the stronger. … I clenched by hand round the club and struck at the head with all my strength. … The bear had been struck where I had aimed, above the nostrils and between the eyes. Blood flowed from its mouth, its paws stiffened in a last convulsion and it collapsed.
This is not a quotation from an animal protection society but from a well-known animal trainer, now retired. He goes on:
I had twenty-six animals: in training I should eliminate the disappointing ones and there would be a replacement if an animal was killed or badly crippled. … Energetic and instant correction is indispensable. The stick and the whip are indispensable.
Is this the kind of thing that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) wants perpetuated in London in the Royal Parks? I sincerely hope that the House will have none of it. The book goes on:
I seized one of the heavy stools and flung it with all my strength at the beast's head. It went sprawling, knocked out. … I landed a heavy blow on her head with a whip-butt. The grip of this, reinforced by a double ring of copper, was like a mace.
Imagine, Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Serjeant at Arms whacking some poor unfortunate dumb animal over the head with the Mace.
Members of the public see only one performance of a circus and it is not always realised that the circus animals have to perform two and three times in a day. Then, at the end of a weary week, after the last performance on Saturday they are thrust into the limited space of their cages for transport by road or rail on a long, weary journey.
As I was saying, it is not generally appreciated that the animals, after the last performance on Saturday, are thrust into confined quarters for journeys, sometimes the length of the country, in the worst of weather. It has been known for a circus train to be stranded in a blizzard with God knows what effect on the mental state of the animals, compelled to perform as quickly as possible after their release.
There are many forms of entertainment, decent, cultural entertainment, which could be given in the Royal Parks. Like other hon. Members, I hope for an extension of such entertainment in the Royal Parks and that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works will be able to indicate that this is what will happen.
There is no doubt that one of the worst things that can happen to a child is genuinely to believe that kindness is employed when an animal is trained. There is nothing wrong at all in a child being encouraged to see animals in more or less natural surroundings in a zoo, where they are well cared for and are not expected to perform. I hope that the House will reject this Bill out of hand.
I support hon. Members opposing the further progress of this rather amazing Bill. It has some arguments to be advanced in its favour from my point of view. The first is its brevity. The second is its simplicity and clarity. The third is that it shows some concern for what goes on in the Royal Parks and affords us the opportunity to discuss them. But beyond that I object to the aim of the Bill.
As far as I can see—and I have perused it carefully—the object of the Bill is to enable a circus to be held in any of the Royal Parks without further legislation. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works has now no power to permit people to stage performances for money in the Royal Parks and, therefore, the passage of the Bill would require a major alteration in the situation as it exists.
I would object to the alteration in principle, quite apart from the fact that it would be a major departure. Unfortunately, I was not here to hear the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) advancing the full arguments that he has for the Bill but I am sure that, if it makes no further progress, it will not be because of any lack of ability which he deployed in urging its cause. We all know that he is very competent. If it does not get any further, it will be because there are strong objections in principle.
I know that the last thing the hon. Gentleman would consider in taking any action in this House would be his personal popularity. Whereas I have had no letters in support of the Bill, I have had one or two from people opposing it. I do not wish to bore the House by reading this rather long communication I have, but one or two quotations may illuminate to hon. Members some of the public opinion on the matter. The letter begins:
I write to alert your attention to a slick move by Big Business to use the House to further their own interest.
Then there is reference to a well-known property tycoon and the assertion is made—I am sure that it is wrong, but I believe that the hon. Gentleman should know the sort of things that are being said—that this well-known property tycoon:
… got, as a stooge, the Member for Peterborough to slip in on a ten minute rule …
this Bill. It is said that the Bill is simply to enable circuses to be sited at Hyde Park.
Another reference to these "tycoons" says:
Now these social climbers want … Hyde Park for a site and want the whole set-up changed to benefit their pockets and prestige".
Finally, there is a punchy postscript which says:
Please reject the second reading of this bogus Bill and prevent another monopoly new-style Mafia!
That is the sort of reaction which I have been getting in my mail.
I wholehartedly support those hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), who have drawn attention to the rural setting of the Royal Parks as the oases of quiet and charm and peace which they afford Londoners in the centre of London. Londoners lead pretty hectic lives and during their lunch hours, or perhaps after work, they can have a quiet stroll in the Royal Parks. Although I would be the last to oppose many forms of public provision in the parks, I feel that circuses in any one of them would seriously upset the whole atmosphere which we have learned to associate with them. This is true of Hyde Park which, more than any other, is right in the centre of the teeming commercial West End of London and more successful in conveying the rural atmosphere than many other parks are.
One of my major objections to the Bill is that it would apply not only to Hyde Park, but to Greenwich Park. Here I have a constituency interest, because although Greenwich Park is in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, many of my constituents make full use of its facilities. I was very pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams) draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works to the subject of catering in the parks. If the hon. Member for Peterborough had devoted a Bill on increasing the facilities and amenities of the Royal Parks to increasing the quality of the catering, I would have been much happier with that sort of Bill than with this.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch speaks from considerable personal experience and I support every word he has said. There are two refreshment places in Greenwich Park. One consists of a small round house in the centre of the park which it would be ideal to operate as a well-run snack bar where people going into the park on Saturday or Sunday afternoon could get a quick snack, a bottle of lemonade, a cup of tea, or a sandwich. Although there have been improvements in the last year or two, I would be less than honest if I did not say that the standard of catering provided there is lower than it should be. I urge on my right hon. Friend the necessity for facilities provided there to be of a suitable standard.
The object should be to provide a decent, quick, wholesome snack served in conditions of hygiene and at a low price so that the food provided could be adequate and enjoyable. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch will support me when I say that present facilities do not measure up to the standards which I have mentioned.
In the wall of Greenwich Park is the Ranger's House. This is a very attractive Georgian mansion. Here, too, food is provided, but a fundamental error of judgment has been made, because whereas there is already the Round House in the centre of the park which can provide quick snacks and the self-service which I am sure would meet a deeply felt need, it is silly to duplicate that sort of approach in the Ranger's House in the side of the wall on the western margins of the park. Here there are gracious surroundings where people could sit at tables and be waited on and obtain attractive and still reasonably priced meals which they could enjoy in conditions of somewhat greater leisure than at the Round House.
I do not want to spend any more time on the catering facilities in Greenwich Park, except to say that the park is one of the more attractive of the Royal Parks in London and the Bill would give powers, subject only to the Minister providing a lease and laying it before Parliament in the form of a Statutory Instrument, to put a circus in the park. If there is any park in London whose character would be absolutely ruined by having a circus, it is Greenwich Park. One of my major objections to the Bill is that Greenwich Park is not excluded from its provisions.
Apart from the character of the park, another reason is the fact that abutting on the boundary of the park is Black-heath where once every two years there is a visit from Billy Smart's circus, which puts on a very good show and which is particularly enjoyed by the children. I cannot see why there should be power to have a circus in Green-Park when Black-heath next door already caters for the situation so admirably.
My hon. Friend says that children enjoy Billy Smart's circus. Would he not accept that frequently many small children can be seen to be absolutely terrified of the performance by the wild animals and the part of the circus which they enjoy is the antics of the clowns?
I am sure that there is a great deal of truth in what my hon. Friend says and I know that he has very wide experience of these matters. As a matter of fact, I am able to have fairly good consumer reaction to a circus, because I have small children of my own who clamour to be taken to this circus whenever it arrives at Blackheath. Nevertheless, I am sure that my hon. Friend has made a pertinent point which the House ought to take into consideration.
One of my hon. Friends has already pointed out that it is not just a matter of putting a circus in a park and that there is also the paraphernalia of cages and lorries and electricity generators, and electricity generators make a tremendous noise when they are generating sufficient electricity to light up the "big top". There is also the surrounding impedimenta which a modern circus carries with it, and I would be the last to advocate the permanent siting of Billy Smart's circus on Blackheath, although its periodic visits are warmly welcomed.
The net result of all this impedimenta is that grass on the circus site is practically non-existent and there is a savage and ugly scar on the surface of Black-heath where the circus camps. If there were provision for the siting of a circus in Hyde Park, there would be exactly the same sort of thing happening to Hyde Park and there would be a tremendous churned up area of bare earth where the circus had been. This would detract considerably from the peace and pleasantness of Hyde Park as we now know them. As a matter of fact, the facilities provided at Blackheath are somewhat better, even apart from the circus, because every Easter and every Whitsun and Bank Holiday we also have a fair on the heath. These three regular visits per year and the biennial visit of the circus, inflict this damage at Blackheath.
Apart from the objections which I have registered, which I consider to be overwhelming, Greenwich has a great claim to a circus site if one were thinking of providing such a site. Tourists could embark upon a boat at Westminster Pier, travel down the river to Greenwich Pier, and in addition to visiting the circus, could visit the Royal Naval Museum. Incidentally the catering facilities at the Royal Naval Museum which the Minister provides are far superior at the moment to those in the Royal Park at Greenwich.
Perhaps he could consider whether the standard of administration in the Museum could be extended to cover the facilities in Greenwich Park? The tourists could visit the theatre which will be there and have a meal and watch a good play. The "Cutty Sark" could also be visited. There is a good deal to be said for having a circus in that area of London, if it were not for the over-riding objections of siting it within the area of the Royal Park, or siting it more frequently at Blackheath than is done already.
Has the promoter of the Bill given serious consideration to the implications of his proposal? He is urging that there should be a circus site in Hyde Park. I had hoped to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, during last week's debate on the Transport White Paper, because the question of transport in towns was not fully dealt with then, and this may well have misled the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough in putting forward this Bill. At some stage in the future this Government, or a succeeding Government, no matter what their political complexion, will be forced to place some restrictions upon the use of private motor cars in the centre of London and similar large cities. This will cause a considerable amount of bitterness among the owners of private motor cars who enjoy driving into the cities to partake of amenities there.
Yet the hon. Gentleman is advocating that, in addition to all of the attractions in the centre of London, a further attraction should be introduced. Olympia is away from the centre and the problems of a circus there are totally different from those of a circus in Hyde Park, in the centre of the West End. Before introducing this Bill has the hon. Gentleman undertaken the necessary studies, has he worked out the traffic flow, the amount of private motor and coach traffic which would be attracted to the centre of London if the Measure were passed? I doubt very much whether he has. There seemed to be no evidence of this in his speech, because he made very little mention of these problems.
This burden on the traffic system in central London is a serious matter. It requires careful forethought and planning. There is a good deal to be said against placing a circus in the centre of London, and for finding some off-centre site for it, such as Hampstead Heath. I do not advocate that with any great spirit or fervour. However, one of its main attractions, being the Member for Lewisham, North, is that it would divert the traffic from Lewisham to the northern outskirts of London. From the point of view of my constituents, this would be a major attraction.
I feel that I have rehearsed the arguments against the Bill at length. I understand that it is unlikely to receive a Second Reading, and I must say that I cannot bring myself to be sorry. In my heart I am glad that the Bill will not proceed further, but I should like to thank the hon. Member for Peterborough for having provided us with the opportunity, which we so rarely get, to discuss problems affecting the Royal Parks in London.
I am grateful to be able to take part in this debate, and in some ways one should be grateful to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) for having raised this matter. What is noteworthy about the Bill is that it seems, as far as one can judge from the debate so far, as if no London Member is in favour of using the Royal Parks for this purpose. Observing the vast expanse of green that there is in front of me on the Opposition benches, it is pertinent to observe that the Bill is introduced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough, and the only hon. Gentleman on the back benches is the hon. Member for, I think, Dumfries, and the hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Front Bench—
I apologise for having been wrong in my Scottish geography. The Bill will not be read by a large number of people inside and outside this House, and they will not appreciate the significance of what is being proposed. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) talked about the difficulties experienced when any open space has to accommodate a circus for two or three weeks. The kind of circus proposed in this Bill is not the same as my hon. Friend had in mind. Clause 1(1) gives to the Minister the power:
… at appropriate seasons (to) lease any part of any Royal Park to any other person as an enclosure for the purpose of accommodating a circus—
a circus, not circuses. I am fortified in my suspicion, because if one reads the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough on 8th November last when seeking leave to introduce a Bill under [the Ten-Minute Rule, he said:
Here comes the bit about the Bill, Mr. Speaker.
I think that you had perhaps looked as if you were about to admonish him for going outside the purpose of the Bill. He continued:
After next Christmas, London will not have every type of entertainment. It will not have a circus. Paris has a circus; Moscow has a circus; Copenhagen has; Lisbon has; Madrid has. All European countries have, but London will not have one. This is what my Bill would seek to remedy. After next Christmas London's famous circus, Bertram Mills' Circus will not have a home. No building capable of economically accommodating it exists in London."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1966; Vol. 735, c. 1156.]
The hon. Gentleman then goes on to suggest that one of the three football pitches in Hyde Park could accommodate a circus.
He continued then to raise an argument, which I am bound to say I thought somewhat spurious, that it would be a tourist attraction, and that there are strong foreign exchange arguments in favour of siting Bertram Mills' circus in a permanent or semi-permanent site in the middle of London. I find this prospect absolutely appalling. The idea that in the middle of London, on what has been rightly called one of the lungs of London, there should be set up permanent or semi-permanent accommodation to house a circus so that it can form the sort of attraction which the hon. Member for Peterborough has in mind, like the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen or the permanent circuses in Paris and Moscow, is a complete denial of what the Royal Parks in London are for. It is a complete denial of what our policy on the parks and open spaces in the centre of our Metropolis should be.
I was perhaps a little unfair to the Opposition, because I said that there was no Conservative London Members present. I think that the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Mr Roots) paid us a fleeting visit. I am sorry that he is not here, because there are two Royal Parks in his constituency—Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. In the constituency of the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) there are St. James's Park and Regent's Park. It would seem from the way in which London Members of Parliament approach this problem that there is no great demand from them for this facility.
The reason for that is very simple. It is that in London we need more open spaces and not fewer. We do not need semi-permanent structures in the centre of London which will considerably reduce the amenity value of the Royal Parks. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North talked about the possibility of Greenwich Park being covered by the Bill. If the Royal Parks extend as far as Greenwich, I suppose that Greenwich is a Royal Park. Richmond Park is a Royal Park. But I cannot imagine that these are parts of London which the hon. Member for Peterborough has in mind. What the hon. Gentleman clearly has in mind is that in Hyde Park there should be sited a circus which would be an attraction comparable to that, apparently, found in some capital cities on the Continent. I should be very much against this.
If one goes to New York, one sees how small is the amount of open space in the centre of Manhattan Island. There is Central Park, a comparatively small lung, but it is surrounded by high-rise apartment houses. Wherever one goes in the centre of New York one cannot escape the feeling of being at the bottom of a man-made canyon, albeit that one is walking on grass. I do not attack the Americans for this. If this is how they wish to build on Manhattan Island, that is a matter for them.
One thing which we should jealously preserve in London is that, save for the unfortunate example of the Hilton Hotel, if one walks in parts of Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, one is not overlooked by very high-rise buildings. This is something which should be treasured and guarded very jealously. Londoners have an historical right to walk in the Royal Parks. One of the most famous attempts to do something about the Royal Parks and to deny the rights of Londoners to the minuscule rural seclusion which one can get by walking in Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens was made by the Regent at the turn of the eighteenth or nineteenth century. When the area around Regent's Park was being developed, it was proposed that he should arrogate to himself the right to build houses in Hyde Park. A very wise Prime Minister told him that there was no surer way for him to lose his throne or for the monarchy to cease if the Royal Parks and greenery in Central London were developed in this way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North did not make a very apt remark when he said that if we want a circus in London why not put it in Hampstead or somewhere outside the centre of London. Hampstead needs open space. My area, Hammersmith, desperately needs open space. I should be very upset if any open space, not only in London but in all our great cities, which is so scare in this overcrowded island, were used to provide a semi-permanent circus for which there is not very much demand.
I turn to the question of demand, because it is important. Since we are being asked as Londoners to give up some of the greenery which we possess and in which we rejoice, one should look behind the Bill and ask whether there is a demand, either by circuses or by the public, for the siting of a circus right in the centre of London. The experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North has certainly been duplicated in my case. I have had no letters, I have not been lobbied by any constituent, and no member of the public has approached me in favour of siting a circus in Hyde Park. This may be an experience which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North and I share, but, after talking to other Members representing London constituencies, I know of no great agitation which has impinged on their Parliamentary consciences. Their experience seems to be precisely the same as mine.
Are the circuses agitating for a permanent site in the centre of London? I have not been approached by either Bill Smart's circus or Bertram Mills' circus to the effect that it is necessary in the interests of their operations to have a site of this sort in the middle of London.
There was reference earlier to the appropriate seasons when the Minister would be asked to authorise the use of the parks for circuses. It is not so much a question of there being a permanent site for a circus but the fact that the people using the great Metropolis would be at the mercy of other people demanding the right to have a circus or some other entertainment in a Royal Park which would interfere with the rights not only of Londoners but of visitors who wish to see the splendours of the cities and to use the parks?
I take my hon. Friend's point. It is in line with the point to which I shall come later.
I am pleased to see my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbelovecl) in his place. I listened n, his speech with great interest and some amazement. It would be almost as bad an abomination to cover Hyde Park with tents as it would be to site a circus on it. What I am in favour of—and I sincerely hope the House is in favour of it—is preserving the parks as parks and not as areas in which people can camp or in which Billy Smart, Bertram Mills or anybody else can have a circus.
I accept that. If people wish to spend their holidays camping in our doubtful weather, so be it. It is not a form of holiday entertainment in which I indulge very much, nor does it particularly appeal to me. But there are different forms of enjoyment and different forms of people. However, the places which surely we should prevent from being exploited by being overlooked by high-rise apartments, by being developed in the sense of buildings going up on them, by being exploited by siting a circus on them or by being cluttered up—I do not use the term offensively—with a lot of tents are the Royal Parks smack in the middle of London. They should be preserved as public open spaces. The greenery of their few acres is very valuable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Gregory) said that the parks were themselves a great attraction. The contrary argument was raised by the hon. Member for Peterborough, who introduced the Bill, that it was necessary in terms of tourist facilities to attract tourists to London to have a circus in the middle so that, I assume, the Parisian, the New Yorker, the Californian or the German would say to himself, "I will not come to London to look at Hyde Park or to enjoy walking along these delightful stretches of grass. I will come to London to see a circus." That is an astonishingly difficult argument to follow. It completely misunderstands the argument about why people go to capital cities.
If I went to Paris or elsewhere on the Continent for a holiday, the possession or otherwise of a circus by that capital would be very low down the list of priorities that determined whether I went to city X or city Y.
The foreign exchange argument is even more spurious. If hon. Members take my point that more tourists will not come because of a circus being sited in Hyde Park, the foreign exchange argument completely falls down. I go so far as to say that if the Royal Parks are disturbed to any great extent in any of the ways I have mentioned—because this is only one of a number of ways in which we are in possible danger of infringing upon the parks—it would have a deleterious effect on the number of tourists who came to this country and there would be far more likelihood that if one were to remove the lungs from the centre of London by doing away with the parks as they are, London would be a poorer place and, in my view, which I hope is the view of the House also, fewer people would come.
People who live in London tend to underestimate the beauty of this city. One of the beauties of this city to anyone who goes abroad and returns to London, especially from the United States, is that it is a joyous pleasure to come back to a city like London which has space about it and a certain amount of graciousness. One of the real features of the Metropolis as we know it today, and which makes London a very good city in which to live and an enjoyable place in which to be and to work, is that within five minutes of this building, if I walk out of it and cross Parliament Square, I can be in one of the Royal Parks—St. James's Park—and walk through there to Green Park. If I really want seclusion at a quarter past one on a Friday, if I were to go from here into Hyde Park and walk into Kensington Gardens I would get seclusion and at least the illusion of being in the country although I am in the middle of London. This illusion and this comparatively small amount of solitude that one gets in a Metropolis of this sort is desperately important to preserve. The Bill, if passed, would be one more tiny encroachment upon the parks, and this I would be very much against. I hope that for these reasons the House will reject it.
The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) spoke about going over to the Continent and not being attracted by something that might be going on in a park, and he mentioned Paris. I am interested in the hon. Member's views, having been a diplomat before I entered the House of Commons and having lived in various capitals.
People go to Vienna to visit the Prater, the park there, with the fair and the famous Vienna Wheel. That is an attraction in a park which, in that capital city, has quite an effect on the tourist trade.
I am not sure whether the hon. Member was interrupting the end of my speech or whether I am interrupting him. May I put two points to him? First, surely nobody really goes to Vienna to go to the circus. What people do if they are in Vienna is to enjoy the city. That is an entirely different matter. Surely, the part of London which is analogous to the Tivoli in Copenhagen or the Prater in Vienna is already provided by Battersea Park. It may not be up to the standard of Vienna or Copenhagen, but there is no justification for encroaching on the Royal Parks in the centre of London when, if one wants to do it, one can expand the facilities already provided on the South Bank in Battersea Park and thereby provide much the same facilities. Thirdly, surely more people go to Vienna to look at the woods than go to the Prater.
That was a fairly generous intervention which I was glad to allow the hon. Member. Having lived in that city on duty, however, I dispute what he says. It was extraordinary the large number of people who came to Austria from abroad and said that they particularly wanted to visit the Prater and the Wheel. Admittedly, they had seen a famous film and this had, no doubt, had something to do with it. The Wienerwald, the Vienna Woods, are well outside the city. Congenial as they are, they were not such an object of concern or interest to incoming tourists.
I dispute what the hon. Member for Barons Court has said. There is no doubt that things of this kind are a great attraction to tourists. Having lived abroad in other capital and large cities, including New York, to which the hon. Member referred, I believe that there is quite a lot to be said for what my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) is putting forward in his Bill.
The Second Reading of the Bill was moved by an hon. Member who is not a London Member and we have had a series of speeches from London Members about the fact that the Bill represents rather the demand of the provinces for what should happen in the capital city.
The demand contained in the Bill, in the interest of tourist trade facilities to allow any part of any Royal Park at appropriate seasons to be used as an enclosure for the purpose of accommodating a circus, is really a demand that we should afford to a provincial Member a right which has so far not been demanded by a London Member.
This raises the conflict, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) referred, of what is the right of the citizen of a capital city with all the attractions which it naturally has as against the views of a provincial Member who spends a large amount of his time in the capital, who has a certain view towards it and who then suggests what rights or extensions of purpose London should have as a city as against a place where people should live, find their enjoyment and seek their recreation. That is the main conflict.
I agree with the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples), who protested in much the same kind of terms to this kind of method being adopted, that although we have a provincial view, London is a capital city and the rights of those resident within it should be well and truly recognised.
The set up in parks, certainly in provincial towns, is not to open them up for secondary or fringe purposes to find means whereby other forms of entertainment can be provided for other than the citizens themselves. We have seen many parks in the North-West disappear because of pressure, in cities like Manchester and Liverpool, for example, where the demand is for even a tiny section of the centre of the city to he preserved with grass and trees because of the great limitations on what people do after working hours. The good thing about the centre of London for its citizens is that they can use its parks, they can use the centre of the city, whereas many large provincial cities literally die when work ceases or the office closes. It is a good thing to see a city living and functioning in this way when otherwise its people would naturally be returning home.
A matter which is pinpointed by the Bill is that the demand is largely to use central London parks for the purposes provided for by the Bill while Greenwich and Richmond Parks would not be used for those purposes. Hyde Park would be the focus where the circus could go on its frolicsome way. The people of London would not be consulted as to what the appropriate season would be, The aim would be to find where the tourist trade could gain best from the circumstances.
As an hon. Member from the North-West, which has problems of this kind, and where we want parks to exist for people to find recreation, I recognise that the people of London have a right to say what happens in their parks even though they be Royal Parks. The kind of proposals made by this Bill would destroy some of the beauty of the parks. As that should not be permitted, I would strongly oppose the Measure.
An hon. Friend has referred to the hundred and one side issues when a park is used as a place of entertainment. We have to consider the movement of traffic in towns and the question of planning. We are concerned about the siting of buildings. We are also concerned about the preservation of open spaces which afford for all time the right of people to be able to wander among grass, trees and flowers. This is not a "cissified" attitude but a matter of considering the rights of people. When considering setting up a circus we have to take into account traffic movement and location. We should make sure that a visitor to a capital city may be provided with circuses if he wants that sort of thing, but not at the expense of those who want to use the Royal Parks for the relaxation that such open spaces automatically provide.
I did not have the, pleasure of hearing the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), but I am told that there was reference to the suggestion that the circus should be sited, where there were football pitches, which would provide a large open space. It was suggested that if the space were large enough for two or three football pitches it could be a site for a permanent or semi-permanent circus. If a site has football pitches on it, why should those facilities be taken away and people who want to play football in the winter and cricket in the summer be deprived of that possibility so that a site can be provided in a large metropolis with the idea of having a dollar-earning kind of attraction? What is the right of the person living in the city? What provision is to be made there at all times to enable people to retire to open spaces for recreation? I do not think that a Bill of this kind should be accepted, because we would lose so much which is provided for visitors and for some permanent residents.
I am gratified to find this unexpected interest on the part of hon. Members opposite in my constituency. I have an additional reason for speaking on this subject. Not only would this Bill legislate about my constituency, but I am also a member of the Showmen's Guild and furthermore, on occasions a practising member of it. I am certain that I am the only Member of this House who has actually put on a circus—which generated a great deal of pleasure and a somewhat lesser quantity of money.
The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) is equally aware that the proposal refers to Hyde Park. I have only one point to make so that hon. Members opposite can get on with it. The whole essence of a circus is that it should be temporary. The charm of a circus is that it is here for three days and then gone and that there is grass underneath it. Those who have been to Battersea Park and have seen what has happened there will see my point about that. Provided that a circus did not give rise to any permanent works of any sort or kind, I would wholeheartedly support this Measure, but not otherwise.
The House has had a most interesting debate which has arisen in a rather curious way. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) introduced a Bill which specifically referred to circuses, although he went much wider in his speech and the debate has also gone wider. This is within the compass of the Bill, of course, and within the rules of order. I am grateful about that.
I must say something about the circus proposal, but I also welcome the fact that the House has had an opportunity to discuss the Royal Parks. In the course of that discussion a number of suggestions have been made about ways in which their service to the public might be improved. I shall mention some of those suggestions and I shall study all of them with great care. The hon. Member for Peterborough explained that he was unable to stay for the conclusion of this debate because of another appointment. I think he was a little modest about the degree of interest there would be in his Measure and he did not expect the debate to go on to the extent it has.
I have been very much encouraged by the views expressed on both sides of the House, which support the view that I take very strongly indeed and which has been taken by my predecessors of both parties over many years. That is, it is absolutely vital that we preserve the Royal Parks as places for recreation for the public at large and that we preserve them as places of relative peace and quiet and tranquility in the midst of London. These are famous parks. They are famous for a good deal of beauty within their boundaries and for the way in which the trees, grass, lakes and flower beds are blended with each other and the way in which they are cared for.
This is something which none of us have a right to take for granted. It is something which is the result of very hard and conscientious work by the staff of the parks. As the responsible Minister I pay tribute to them. I have had the pleasure since I have held this office to visit most of the Royal Parks—not all of them, but I hope to visit the others before long. I have met the staff there and it is encouraging to see the work which is being done in the parks by gardeners, park-keepers, carpenters and industrial workers of all kinds with a variety of skills. Among them are old servants who have spent a lifetime in the work and also many young people including those who come in under apprenticeship schemes as gardeners, boys and girls. All this means that the public are able to enjoy the parks. I used the phrase "the public at large". This means not only Londoners but visitors to London, whether they come from other parts of the United Kingdom or from overseas. I shall develop that point because the hon. Member for Peterborough based his case on the need to make London more attractive to visitors.
It has been the policy of successive Governments for a long time to restrict encroachments on the Royal Parks. It has not always been so. The history of the Royal Parks has been rather chequered. We owe it to two of our monarchs, who are not always held in high esteem—King Charles I and King Charles II—more than to others, although we owe it to others as well—for the gesture which originally made the Royal Parks available to the general public.
There have been a number of attempts to reverse the trend. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Carol Johnson) mentioned Queen Caroline. My hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) mentioned the Prince Regent. The prize example is Oliver Cromwell, who actually sold Hyde Park for £17,000. I do not know what the current figure would be. Fortunately, the park was restored to public use after the Restoration. If I had been going to make a more polemical speech than I am, I might have been tempted to suggest that the hon. Member for Peterborough was in the tradition of Cromwell and Queen Caroline. However, the hon. Gentleman to some extent withdrew this morning from the position he adopted when he spoke on these matters on his Motion under the Ten Minutes Rule.
The policy of preserving the Royal Parks becomes more urgent as time passes. Lord Chatham was quoted in his day as expressing the view that the Royal Park were the lungs of London. If that was so then, it is very much more so in the 1960s and, indeed, may become more so as time passes. The vast urban sprawl of London has become too big, too crowded, too saturated with traffic. All the physical and nervous pressures of living in a vast and crowded conurbation are pressing more and more upon our lives.
Very large parts of London are desperately short of open space. There are three concentric circles. There is the inner area which contains the Royal Parks. Then there is the middle area, those parts of London which developed before the First World War. I am thinking, for example, of my own constituency of East Ham, North, and of many areas at a similar distance from the centre, where there is a desperate shortage of open space and where the community consists of closely packed terrace houses, road after road, and very little open space. Then there is the area further out which was developed between the wars and in the post-war period, where much more attention has been paid to proper town and country planning and to the provision of open space. It is clearly a priceless asset for Londoners and for visitors to London to have the Royal Parks, and particularly the great central group of Royal Parks. on which most of the debate has been focused.
I advise hon. Members, when they are feeling rather jaded after too many hours in this place, that one of the best things they can do is to take a walk from here to the far end of Kensington Gardens. My hon. Friend the Member for Ash-field (Mr. Marquand) tells me that he has done this. He does not look any the worse for it. It is a distance of 3½ miles, or seven miles both ways. I suspect that my hon. Friend did not manage it both ways. At any rate, it is to be recommended to anyone who is in search of exercise and fresh air.
What is the proposal before the House? The Bill concentrates on a proposal to allow circuses in the Royal Parks. Although the hon. Member for Peterborough said that he had wider purposes in mind. I must devote a few moments to the proposal about circuses. In the speech the hon. Member made on 8th November, when he, sought leave to introduce the Bill, he stated his purpose rather more narrowly. He was concerned that Bertram Mills' circus should have a home in Hyde Park when its lease runs out at Olympia.
Even if I were disposed to agree to a proposal about circuses in general, which I am not, it, would be very much more difficult to confine permission to one circus. Hon. Members will not be surprised to hear that, after the publicity that occurred following the hon. Member's speech under the Ten Minutes Rule, the Ministry very soon received a letter from the proprietors of another circus asking, "What about us? Can we be considered as well?"
On the proposal to have circuses in the Royal Parks, the hon. Member for Peterborough obviously completely underestimated the effect. He spoke of the temporary use of football pitches in Hyde Park to provide a site for a circus. As several hon. Members have said—I need not develop the point at any great length—the provision of ground for a circus involves a very large area, particularly if it is to be a circus such as Bertram Mills', with its high reputation and the scale of its entertainment. Not only is there the big top, but also the animal cages, the accommodation for staff and for performers, the accommodation for the general public, the provision of toilets, restaurants, extra drainage, water and electricity facilities, and the very heavy traffic which would be going to and from the circus.
As the hon. Gentleman said in his speech on 8th November, all of this would be taking place in the summer, as he proposed, at a time when the Park is in the greatest demand from the public for other purposes. The effect of all this activity on the Park would not be confined to that period, serious as it is. Grass would be left churned up and might take many months to restore. The Park would be robbed of much of its attraction, not only at the time, but afterwards. It would be absolutely inconsistent with the concept of the Royal Parks as nearly every hon. Member who has spoken has understood it to be.
Further, if we were concerned to allow commercial entertainments into the Royal Parks, it is very doubtful whether giving the concession to circuses and not to other people would be justified on public grounds. I was very impressed by the well-informed and sincere speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown). There is growing concern about the question of cruelty in the training of circus animals. Without going into that controversy to any extent, I feel that I can make a personal point at this juncture and say that, whatever the degree of cruelty, I am not sure that it is acceptable to me, or that it ought to be acceptable to people generally, that we should seek entertainment in the form of watching animals perform difficult tricks.
Watching the human side of a circus—the clowns and the other performers—is another matter. I find watching the animals to some extent repugnant and there are grave doubts about the cruelty which is involved in the training of animals. Therefore, if the House were disposed to think in terms of circuses exclusively, I believe that we should run into a great deal of criticism from those who are concerned about these matters.
To be fair to the hon. Member for Peterborough, he went on to say that he had a rather more modest objective than might be expected from reading the Bill. He said that he was anxious that we should consider whether the existing legislation was too restrictive and whether the Minister of Public Building and Works should have greater power to grant permission, when he thought fit, for activities in the Royal Parks which were prohibited by the existing legislation.
I listened to that point very carefully. It is a question I have thought about in the past. I will go with the hon. Gentleman to the extent of saying that I should give more consideration to that in future. My inclination is that the state of the law at the moment, although the law is old and might be considered to be in some ways illogical, fits almost exactly with public policy as it should be pursued and as I believe that most hon. Members who have taken part in the debate would think that it should be pursued
Admittedly, there are cases on the border line. For example, there has recently been an application to hold a Shakespeare exhibition in Hyde Park. My Ministry took the view that this was outside the legal limitations. There was the proposal to hold the Richmond Royal Horse Show in Richmond Park.
The granting of permission for this was also held to be outside the legal powers of my Ministry. I think that such cases are arguable. It could be argued that cases of that kind could be consistent with the present concept of the Royal Parks and would not rob them of the general amenities that people consider valuable. On the other hand, in this case as in all cases, I suggest that one should not always argue from the marginal point of view. It is always possible, on the margin of any argument, to produce cases which seem anomalous to many people.
In general, we hold the line against the many demands which are made for the use of the Royal Parks, and I think that the law as it stands helps us to do so, as the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) said. However, I think I should point out that I have the power under the legislation and regulations to agree to some activities in the Royal Parks if these are consistent with the amenities of the Parks and if the enclosure of any area is done by the Ministry and is not leased out to some private individual or private organisation.
Within that category come some other things which have been mentioned in the debate. For example, Son et Lumière can be held in the Royal Parks and, indeed, has been held already twice at Greenwich. I would only make this comment about Son et Lumière: it is a most valuable development, particularly when it takes place in relation to a building of especial historic or architectural interest. During last summer I saw Son et Lumière at Hampton Court and at Salisbury Cathedral, and I thought that both of these performances were first-class. They enabled people to see historic buildings in a new perspective and to learn details about them in the form of an entertainment or to learn more in a pleasant way than they would by the more conventional methods of seeing those buildings.
On the whole, the Royal Parks do not lend themselves very much to Son et Lumière because they do not have this kind of building in their midst. Greenwich may be an exception, but if one is speaking of the central parks in particular I would not a agree that their is a great deal of scope for Son et Lumière.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will never allow any more son in my constituency. I receive more letters on the subject of noise in the centre of London than on any other single topic. I hope that any suggestion of further noise in Westminster will be squashed. Let us have Lumière of all sorts, political and physical, but no more son please.
I take the point and that is just the kind of consideration that we and many others would be studying if ever we were to get a proposal of this kind.
Similarly, we are able to provide for catering in the Royal Parks because this is clearly a purpose consistent with the park amenities. I was interested to hear the remarks about the deficiencies of catering for example in St. James Park by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams) and Greenwich by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle). All this will be studied. We have plans in preparation for improvements in the catering in St. James Park and I hope that within the next year or two these will take effect. Our plans for Greenwich Park, are not yet developed to such a point, but we are giving study to the matter which will be reinforced by what has been said in the debate today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) talked about the benefits of camping which he suggested we should develop in the Royal Parks. When he did so, one of my hon. Friends passed me a note but, in view of what was contained in it, I think I had better not say which of my hon. Friends sent it. The note said that he did not think that particular proposal would be well-beloved. At any rate, I can tell the House that there is no legal bar to allowing camping in the Royal Parks, but it is not a feature that we thought we ought to encourage on a large scale. Again, this is because of the effect it would have on the park as a whole, the amount of space that would be needed and the general inconvenience to the park users.
Generally, I can tell the House that we receive very large numbers of applications from people who want to use the Royal Parks for all kinds of purposes. I cannot give a figure because many of these applications are made by telephone. Certainly the volume of correspondence is considerable. It comes from people who have a commercial enterprise in mind and also from many others who want to stage an event for charitable purposes. They represent many causes that most of us would want to support, and some others that most of us would not want to support. I see only a small percentage of such letters personally, more particularly those which are backed by hon. Members who write to me about them. But during the few months that I have been doing this job I have been convinced that it is only possible to preserve the character of the Royal Parks if we take a very rigid attitude to these applications. Certainly there are some that have come in about which I have felt, "This is a good cause and I should like to help it; does one exception matter?" But I think that the sheer volume of these applications is such that if we made any concessions in that direction we could very soon reach the position where we had destroyed completely the atmosphere of the Royal Parks as we have come to appreciate it.
The hon. Member for Peterborough—I am glad that he has now been able to return to the debate—made a very important point about tourism. May I say, if it needs saying, that I agree with him that tourism clearly must play a very big part in the earning of foreign currency. It ought to play a growing part. It is up to the Government and public authorities in this country to help and encourage it wherever possible. I accept that absolutely. I think that was the strongest point that he made.
Of course, it could be argued that because it is so vital to Britain, the balance of payments should be the paramount consideration and that whatever I and others have said about the Royal Parks is secondary to that one particular issue. But I am bound to agree with more than one hon. Member who has said that it does not follow that the provision either of circuses or of other entertainment in the Royal Parks would on balance be a help to tourism. I would have thought that people overseas choosing to come to this country would not specifically come here because they wanted to see a circus. But then it could be argued that they would come here if they thought that London was a gay city and if there was plenty of entertainment, and that therefore a secure home for the circus would help to create this image in their minds. This may be so for some people, but I am absolutely certain that for many others the Royal Parks as they are, with the amenities they present and with the atmosphere they have, are at least as strong an inducement and, I would have thought, on the whole a stronger one. Indeed, I would have thought that people travel abroad to find what is unique in the places they visit. Circuses happen all over the place. The Royal Parks in London are quite different from anything which is available in other similar cities in the world.
I accept the logic of what the right hon. Gentleman says. People would come here specially to go to the parks. They would not come here specially to see the circus, Son et Lumière or a dancing display. But once they are here, what entertainment we provide decides how much they spend. When people walk along Oxford Street, what is in the shop windows and behind the counters decides what they spend. That is the point that I made when I referred to helping the balance of trade figures.
I accept that, but I still do not feel that it adds up to a case for using the Royal Parks in such a way as to make a material contribution to what visitors would spend. If we were to affect the balance of payments materially by this means we would have to make a major incursion into the Royal Parks. We would no longer be talking about a marginal activity. We would make a major incursion which would be destructive of their atmosphere. Since the hon. Member introduced his Ten Minutes Rule Motion, we have had a number of letters protesting against the proposals and hoping that we would resist them. Some of those have come from overseas. There was one from an American addressed to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), my predecessor in office, saying that he understood that my right hon. Friend was the Member of Parliament for Hyde Park and hoping that he would use that office to resist the proposal in the hon. Gentleman's Bill.
Seriously, I feel that, if one looks at both sides of the question in relation to the tourism argument, admittedly, a very important argument, there is more to be said for preserving the Royal Parks as they are than on the other side presented by the hon. Gentleman.
I conclude in this way. I am flatly against the specific proposal in the Bill regarding circuses, and so, to a greater or lesser extent, I think, have been all hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. As regards the more general proposition that the law should be made more flexible, although I shall think further about it, I can do so only in the sense that I feel at the moment that, on balance, the law is about right in relation to public policy regarding the Royal Parks. Even if they are considered a bit old-fashioned and anomalous, the legal limits at the moment do not impose any real burden on me, and are not likely to do so on any other Minister in this office, if we start from the standpoint that we want to preserve the character of the Royal Parks.
The Royal Parks are a great national asset. I think that we should preserve them as they are, while trying to make improvements in catering and other matters of the kind mentioned by hon. Members today. Nevertheless, although resisting the Bill, I say at once that the hon. Gentleman has done a service by enabling us to have a debate today. The debate has ranged widely, more widely than I expected when I came into the Chamber, and it has brought forth a lot of suggestions and ideas on this important topic.