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Kew Gardens (Hours Of Opening)

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in the presence of summer time, he will arrange to keep Kew Gardens open to the public after 7 p.m.

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will arrange for Kew Gardens to remain open to the public until 10 p.m. during the months from May to September in view of British double summer time.

67.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will revise the closing hours of Kew Gardens from 8 p.m. until dusk, so that people can take advantage of them for longer periods during double summer time and summer time; and whether he will also arrange for the various hothouses to be open to the public later than 4.30 p.m

I have again reviewed this question. The Royal Botanic Gardens are primarily a scientific institution, and adequate trained staff must be on duty whenever the gardens are open to the public in order to safeguard the invaluable scientific collections from loss or damage. Between the middle of May and the middle of August, the gardens are open until 8 p.m. This throws a heavy burden on the staff, who have to be on duty for more than 60 hours a week at this time of the year, including every Sunday and most Saturdays. Although I am anxious that the public should he able to enjoy the amenities of the gardens to the greatest possible extent consistent with their scientific purpose, I do not consider that I should be justified either in requiring the present staff to work still longer hours, or in recruiting and training the considerable number of additional staff that would be required for the sake of keeping the gardens open a little longer in the summer evenings. At this time of year the hothouses are closed at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Certain cultural processes have to be carried out on the plants after the houses are closed, and it would not he practicable to keep them open until a later hour without endangering the plants and placing heavy burdens on the staff

Is the Minister aware that there are thousands of members of the public who derive great pleasure from their visits to Kew Gardens that that pleasure can be given to thousands by the addition of very few to the staff as extra door-keepers; and if the Minister is unable to find those few extra door-keepers, would he not transfer some people from the hothouses, or make some other arrangement for a few extra people, in order that these thousands may derive this enjoyment.

I fully agree that large numbers of people do enjoy the luxury of a visit to Kew Gardens. But since the technical employees are now working a 10-hour day, with usually an extra hour per day overtime, I do not think it would be reasonable to expect them to work extra hours. Indeed, were the gardens to be kept open it is very doubtful whether those who remain between eight and ten o'clock would be able to get transport back to their homes

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the same consideration to the farming community as he is giving to the gardening staff, because they work very long hours?

is the Minister aware that in some of the Royal Parks they had precisely this problem and managed to solve it; and if this difficulty is merely a question of staff, will he consider the possibility of getting volunteers who would undertake this work, because there are many who would want others to share their pleasure?