Clause 138 - Abolition of Royal Parks Constabulary

Part of Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 20 January 2005.

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Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 9:45, 20 January 2005

In a previous political incarnation, I was chairman of Westminster city council's environment committee. In that capacity, I had regular meetings with the management of the royal parks. An important part of those meetings was the security of the parks, and an important part of that was the role played by the Royal Parks constabulary, which the clause will abolish. I am not saying that that is necessarily the wrong thing to do, but certain questions arise.

We cannot underestimate how important the royal parks are to the capital; they cater to tourists, and provide a green lung and a little environmental space for Londoners. One aspect that we often take for granted, however, is the security, which I saw at first hand. The Royal Parks constabulary, as cuddly and friendly as its officers may have looked, was very effective at running the parks and maintaining a sense of security. If there were a spate of crimes, however, that trust and confidence could be lost very quickly.

Has the Minister had consultations with the Metropolitan police to ensure that the officers who will replace the Royal Parks constabulary are dedicated and have the same desire to be involved with the local community? Will they be dedicated to the parks, so that they will not be pulled away if there is an emergency in another part of the capital? One idea might be to have a force of dedicated community support officers for the royal parks, but I do not know. The important point is to address such issues, because if confidence is lost, things could go very badly, very quickly.