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Paying for the Monarchy

July 4, 2011

MPs and Peers have briefly debated the future finances of the Monarchy.  Crown and Parliament differed over money for centuries.  But at the accession of George III in 1760 it was agreed that most of the income from Crown lands would go to the Treasury and the King would receive a Civil List payment for the discharge of Royal duties.  With some minor tweaks on the way that arrangement has been renewed by each monarch.

Two estates remain as private income, the Duchy of Lancaster for the monarch and Duchy of Cornwall for the heir.  Many head of state expenses are also met directly by various Government departments.  We effectively have a salaried Royal Family who also have a substantial private income.

In the last financial year 2009/10 the Civil List amounted to £14.2million.  Government expenditure on travel, security, palaces etc amounted to £23.6million.  The direct salary of the Duke of Edinburgh was £359,000.   The Duchy of Lancaster made a profit of £13.3million and the Duchy of Cornwall £17.2million.   The revenue from the Crown Estate was £210.7million.

State expenditure on the Monarchy has actually fallen considerably over the last 20 years.  But the Queen and the Treasury have decided to seek a new formula going forward.  The Chancellor will be publishing a Bill for Parliament to consider this month.  Instead of the Civil List and supplementary Government expenditures having to be decided each year there will be a fixed percentage of the Crown Estate income paid to the Royal Household.  This will be known as the Sovereign Grant, which I guess is a more accurate description of its purpose than “Civil List”.

Discussing the Royal Family is done with great care in the House of Commons.  Personally I think the conventions are now over protective, stultifying debate.  Issues that are discussed up and down the land don’t get an airing in the country’s primary debating forum.  It does allow for some pompous speeches from Tory MPs.  But in speaking for the Liberal Democrats I kept to the rules and acknowledged the esteem and affection in which Her Majesty is held.  But I think it is right that not only should we reform the income of the Head of State but the expenditure should be fully transparent, too.  Parliament has discovered in a very painful way that resisting financial transparency leads to reputational damage.  The National Audit Office should be able to report each year on the use of all the Crown Estate funds.

I also mentioned that the Crown should be able to raise more funds by opening up the Royal Palaces to the public more often.  The White House is a working residence but is open most days of the year, not just in August.  Buckingham Palace could and should be seen by many more people.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. lyndaphillips2 permalink
    July 4, 2011 2:47 pm

    Refreshing view on one of our nations greatest assets. I’m all for the royal family as long as they represent our country and do a worthwhile job. The idea of opening the palaces to fee paying public and tourists is very good because that would mean a large portion of their upkeep could be raised this way. One criticism I would make though is the two Duchys generate huge incomes which is quite obscene when you consider that pensioners, disabled, sick and unemployed people are expected to live on between £65 – £100 per week.

  2. John Rippon permalink
    July 5, 2011 2:16 am

    As a firmly committed Royalist I think the Royal Family represent Marvelous value-for-money. It is a fact that ALL “Presidential” systems throughout the world cost far more and achieve far less than our own Constitutional Monarchy which is the envy of the world.

    I think that the Royal “Purse” should be substantially increased to reflect what they achieve for this Country.

    Never forget that as Head of State the Prime Minister is appointed by the Monarch as His/Her Constitutional REPRESENTATIVE. Since uniquely ALL the armed forces and ALL the civil administration owe their allegiance TO THE MONARCH in our Country: if we ever got a pretty rotten Prime Minister appointed, and if He/She refused to step down at the request of the Monarch then the Monarch could call upon her /his combined forces to remove the unsatisfactorily dire Prime Minister to the Tower of London!

    A pretty extreme case but at least we would never have to face a “Hitler” and so we should all look upon our constitutional Monarch as a wonderful “Insurance policy” and cheap at the price.

    America and France and many other nations would give their eye teeth to get their own Monarch, especially one as good as our Queen!

    John Rippon.

    • rosemary permalink
      July 12, 2011 12:32 pm

      Hear, hear John. The Crown estates bring in billions of pounds a year which the Treasury grabs. The most gracious (if a tiny one) recompense for this centuries old rip off would be to restore Her Majesty’s yacht to her for her Diamond Jubilee. What a spiteful “economy” that was, and what a false one too.

      • rosemary permalink
        July 12, 2011 2:35 pm

        So sorry Stephen and John: I have conflated two things which never should be – capital and income. The Crown Estates bring billions in capital value to the Treasury, but only millions in income. This has however brought in 2 billion in income over the last ten years – to the Treasury, not the monarchy.

  3. Mrs Danuta Kellett permalink
    July 8, 2011 9:18 pm

    It is better, sometimes not to talk about the money they told me.

  4. Debra permalink
    July 29, 2011 7:56 pm

    The Monarchy do a wonderful job for this country.
    I jolly well hope that you did, “keep to the rules and acknowledge the esteem and affection in which Her Majesty is held”, because the ordinary people in this country do esteem the queen and hold her in affection.

  5. August 8, 2011 1:35 pm

    I’m a republican and think we shouldn’t give the Royal Family any money even if they do a good job because they weren’t elected and they own a hell of a lot of land which would probably do them nicely if they just stayed on it and didn’t have to serve us.

    I think the principle of having an elected head of state outweighs the obvious international benefits the Royals bring to the country. Republican or not, they do a hell of a lot for the UK and I mustn’t begrudge or limit that fact.

    But I acknowledge that this isn’t the majority opinion and isn’t going to change any time soon, so reform of the Royal Family is fairly low on my personal priorities list. Stephen’s quite right to point to the Palace as an area where something could easily change, though.

    • August 8, 2011 5:49 pm

      thanks Rob. UPDATE – there has been another debate since this blog was written. The Chancellor dealt with my specific request for more opening hours/days at Buckingham Palace and confirmed that the Palace are looking at this.

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