This Commons Library briefing deals with the Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [HL] 2017-19, which would provide that the Secretary of State’s powers in relation to the management of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, include the power to grant a lease in respect of land for a period of up to 150 years.
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The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) is located in southwest London and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1840 responsibility for the gardens was transferred from the Crown to the Government, and they were opened to the public. RBG Kew is now an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). RBG Kew has a Board of Trustees, established by the National Heritage Act 1983, who are collectively responsible for the organisation. It is funded through a combination of grant-in-aid from Defra, self-generated income and charitable donations. Total income for 2017/18 was £111.7 million of which £40.8 million was grant-in-aid from Defra.
The Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill is a short, two clause Bill, that intends to give the Secretary of State the power to grant a lease over land at Kew for a term of up to 150 years and removes an existing restriction under the Crown Lands Act 1702 which limits such leases to 31 years. The intention of the change is to enable Kew to increase its self-generated income. Income would be generated by granting leases of up to 150 years for the use of parts of the Kew Gardens estate for residential or commercial use. By granting leases of up to 150 years, Kew would transfer the liability and cost of maintaining these non-core assets to the leaseholder.
The Bill extends to England and Wales but applies to England only. There are no minor or consequential effects outside England and a legislative consent motion is not required.
The Bill was first introduced to the House of Lords and completed these stages on 11 June 2019. The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 11 June 2019 and Second Reading was held on 24 June 2019. The remaining Commons stages are scheduled for 24 July 2019.
The Bill (as originally introduced in the Lords) is almost identical to two Private Member’s Bills currently before Parliament. The first was introduced in the House of Lords by Lord True (Conservative) in July 2017, with the second being introduced in the House of Commons by Zac Goldsmith (Conservative MP for Richmond Park) in January 2018. Neither bill has yet received a Second Reading.
A similar Private Members Bill was introduced in the Commons in the 2016-17 session by Ian Liddell-Grainger MP. It was supported by the Government, but did not progress past Report Stage in the Commons.
Information on the Bill is also given in the House of Lords Library briefing.