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Royal Botanic Gardens

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009


My honourable friend the Minister for Marine and Natural Environment (Huw Irranca-Davies) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to update the House on recent developments related to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG, Kew).

I am pleased to announce that on 1 August 2009 Sir Neil Chalmers, Warden of Wadham College, Oxford and a former Director of the Natural History Museum, will commence an independent review of RBG, Kew. Sir Neil will be supported by a small team of independent consultants. The last review was carried out in 2001, although there was a separate independent audit of Kew’s scientific activities in 2006.

Non-departmental public bodies such as RBG, Kew benefit significantly from regular and objective reviews, which examine their role, performance and priorities. To carry out such a review now gives us a timely and valuable opportunity to examine how RBG, Kew can continue to deliver its statutory functions effectively and maintain the quality and value of its scientific contribution in critical areas such as the conservation of global biodiversity.

The following terms of reference have been drawn up to guide the review:

to conduct an evaluation of the performance of the Royal Botanic Gardens, (RBG) Kew in fulfilling its statutory obligations since the last review in 2001;

as part of the evaluation, to pay particular attention to resourcing and the effectiveness of income generation, infrastructure and heritage management and support; to consider how the scientific and other activities of RBG, Kew support the objectives of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and other government departments; and to review the existing Defra sponsorship arrangements;

to consider in the light of this evaluation and the views of other customers and stakeholders whether the services, activities, and organisational arrangements at RBG, Kew remain the most effective means of achieving its own, Defra’s, as well as Government-wide objectives, such as those relating to climate change, conservation and biodiversity, overall science policy, and the operational efficiency agenda;

to assess what changes, if any, are needed in the light of the findings of the review to improve the quality, effectiveness and value for money of RBG, Kew services, and to set out the rationale and to recommend appropriate options to Ministers. These should address how best to ensure a sustainable financial future for RBG, Kew and its world-class science.

The review will be carried out openly and transparently and users, customers and stakeholders of RBG, Kew will be consulted. Sir Neil’s recommendations will be published along with the Government’s response.

I will update the House as necessary.