London Zoo Lease — [Dame Caroline Dinenage in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:01 am on 14 March 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology) 10:01, 14 March 2023

I think that is the most tremendous intervention I will ever take. While I cannot confirm or deny Robbie’s continued existence, I suspect he has sired many children, and there are many giraffe babies with Robbie’s genes. I am sure that somebody from ZSL will be able to answer that question for my hon. Friend. If he needs any help, I would be happy to make inquiries.

The zoo itself is the capital’s 10th most visited attraction, and contributes £24 million to the economy each year locally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East said. In 2022, London Zoo saw 1.8 million visitors, inspiring adults and children alike with a much greater appreciation for wildlife and nature. To build on that success, and open up the zoo to an even wider audience, this year ZSL has introduced a wonderful community access scheme to help families with lower incomes access the zoo for only £3 a ticket. That scheme is part funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. I was interested to hear about the experiences of Ms Buck with the education facilities as the local MP. The queues for the zoo during the recent half-term are testament to how well that kind of scheme is received. I understand that the scheme saw 50,000 people on income support visit the zoo during half term. London Zoo is therefore considering how to build on that scheme, taking it forward in the long term so that everybody can access its inspiring zoos.

The commitment to accessibility does not stop there. The zoo also runs audio-described tours, sign language tours and early morning openings aimed at autistic and neurodiverse visitors. Over 80,000 school students visit London Zoo each year, learning about wildlife and conservation and taking part in workshops, on subjects including climate change and plastic pollution. All of those initiatives serve to improve access for everybody, across society, to visit and learn more about the natural world.

Looking forward, in 2028 London Zoo will celebrate 200 years of being open, and I am sure I am not alone in wishing it success in the next 200 years. There are ambitious plans to modernise the zoo by redeveloping its animal spaces to create naturalistic, multi-species zones; I am sure the way in which the zoo is approaching the important issue of conservation means that its future is secure.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East for bringing the House’s attention to the issue of the lease. We firmly believe that London Zoo is an asset that is worth protecting and championing. As I said, Lord Parkinson leads on policy in this area and I am sure he will be happy to meet in order to discuss the specific issue of the lease, as well as the question of a legislative vehicle through which the extension of that lease might be delivered. I thank everybody for contributing to the debate.