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 4:15 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip 4:15 pm, 24th July 2019

I will be brief, because I am aware that Ruth George and others want to get on to the next debate. I fully understand that.

I am grateful for the support we have received from the Opposition Front Benchers. In these situations, it is important to learn lessons from other hon. Members, such as Stephen Pound, who, I always find, uses good humour, a probing wit and maximum respect for the subject and the people involved. I was getting a little bit nervous at the tone of an hon. Member whom I like, Pete Wishart. I was concerned that some of his understandable comments about the process were beginning to reflect on to Kew itself, so I am pleased that Patrick Grady clarified that that was certainly not the case. One thing’s for sure—Kew is certainly not a laughing stock. It is a much valued asset, and I am pleased he reinforced that.

Amendment 1 is not necessary and is not clearly drafted. Should information on the granting of a specific lease be required by anyone, including the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, in line with the Land Registry publication requirements, the price paid for the lease and the relevant details of the leaseholder and the lease document itself will be available from the Land Registry when the lease is registered. I think the hon. Gentleman is aware of that. It is unclear what information the amendment would require to be in any report, but information on a lease, including price and lease conditions, will be available to the public and any Government Minister.

On amendment 2, under the National Heritage Act 1983 a statement of accounts for Kew is prepared, examined and certified in respect of each financial year. This annual report and accounts is reviewed by the Comptroller and Auditor General—the head of the National Audit Office—and laid before each House. Details of Kew’s income, including Government, commercial and charitable donations, are set out in the report, which is a public document. As already stated in the other place, income received by Kew in respect of those leases will be reflected in the report.

I hope that assures the hon. Gentleman that the issue has been taken care of. He was probably already aware of the points I have made, and he has had an opportunity to make his wider points, so, for the benefit of this particular Bill and the impact it will have on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.