Power to grant a lease in respect of land at Kew Gardens

Part of Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 24th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip 4:00 pm, 24th July 2019

Thank you, Sir Lindsay. I have an important announcement to make to the Committee, on the back of the significant points that have just been made by Patrick Grady. I can confirm that, as he will see when he next visits Kew Gardens, there are goldfish there. I am glad that I can answer these important questions of the day that he raises.

I am grateful for the sincere co-operation of Members across the Committee, including the Opposition Front Benchers. The hon. Members for Stroud (Dr Drew) and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) have asked some important questions, and I am grateful to them for their support. I will respond briefly to their points. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport mentioned the concerns that the Select Committee raised back in 2014-15. In 2015 Kew published its science strategy, “A Global Resource for Plant and Fungal Knowledge”, which set out clear research priorities, including research programmes. The delivery of those programmes was all subject to funding and progress has been made on many of those priorities. Kew will be refreshing its corporate strategy and its science strategy in 2020, and that work is well under way.

The hon. Gentleman asked where the extra funding would go. I can assure him that it will go to help underpin Kew’s core priorities and what it is seeking to accomplish, in England and more widely, not least in Scotland and the wider world. I can assure the hon. Member for Stroud that the funding does incorporate significant investment in digitising Kew’s herbarium collection, which is important to him and to all of us, because we want to ensure that it is conserved securely and made globally available. Importantly, it will be available online.

The funding will help Kew in its ambition to increase further its self-generated revenue and become more financially self-sufficient. I understand that it will not be used directly to reduce funding; this is to help it achieve its ambitions to grow its funding further. What is reassuring to hon. Members is that since 2009-10 we have seen the grant in aid funding from DEFRA increase from £28.6 million to £40.8 million, and at the same time—this is credit to the team at Kew—Kew’s self-generated income has increased from £20 million to £70 million. This is therefore part of an ambitious and much wider scheme to help move things forward.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport was absolutely right to mention green spaces. Yes, they will be protected. The leases are around peripheral buildings at this stage and will not affect the core purpose. As I have said already, the funding will be used for the core purposes that are so vitally important for all that goes on at Kew.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the entrance fee. The Natural History Museum and others are designated as national museums and are sponsored directly by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, although they do get funding from special exhibitions. Kew is different, and the admission and membership fees there help to raise much-needed funds of £18 million. The broader discussion about how that would shape things is for some point in the future and is certainly not for this Bill. It is good to know that the board is making significant steps forward.

The other point the hon. Gentleman raised was about extra funding from DCMS and elsewhere. He may be aware that it already receives £3 million of official development assistance funding administered from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Those are important issues, and it is worth noting that there will be a visit in due course so that Members from Scotland and elsewhere can come and see all that Kew has to offer. We will talk more about that later on.

The Bill is not large, but its impact is significant. It will enable the release of value from land and property at Kew Gardens through a variety of commercial options, such as long leases for residential or office use. It will also reduce maintenance liabilities and running costs and enhance the site through restoration and ongoing maintenance. It will help Kew in its ambition to further increase its self-generated revenue and become more financially self-sufficient. For those reasons, I hope that the Committee will approve the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Legislative Grand Committee (England)