Clause 7 — Review by Royal Trustees of Sovereign Grant
Bill Presented — Cycles (protective Headgear for Children) Bill
Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour)
Mr Leigh made a point about the Bill and about whether those at Buckingham palace listen to our debates. I assure him that they do. The last time I spoke on these issues, I had a call from Buckingham palace within an hour telling me that the information I had given about the heir to the throne’s income increasing by 50% in a year and his spending of taxpayers’ money increasing by 18% was absolutely accurate but could be misleading. So we are under that surveillance, I am happy to say.
I believe it is a complete myth to think that the Crown Estate is the property of the royal family, and it is a disingenuous view. In the Bill there is an attempt to refresh and replace that idea. I saw an interesting quote in the Financial Times from a Government source, who said:
“There is a major constitutional issue with appearing to say that”
“owns all this stuff when she doesn’t”.
It is quite clear that the Crown Estate is the property of the country, and that the revenue should go to health, social security and the other issues before us.
I cannot understand why Members, particularly our own Front Benchers, having seen that the Bill was coming up—we have one every 250 years—are maximising the understandable current popularity of the royal family to ensure that it gets through and that there is a settlement that could be very expensive in future. If the Bill had been presented to the House at the time of Diana’s death, or another time when the royal family were very unpopular, the House would have given a very different view. Clearly this is a honeymoon time in which to introduce it.
I believe that, as has been suggested, a simple mechanism should have been adopted. As is the case for other taxpayers, such as recipients of income support and housing benefit, there could be a mechanism linked to inflation. I suggest again that it should be the same mechanism that decides on pensioners’ increases, which have sadly been reduced because of the change from the retail prices index to the consumer prices index. If that measure were introduced and the funding were divorced from the Crown Estate, it would work and it would seem fair. Would it not be marvellous if we demanded from the royal family the same freedom of information that is demanded of all the rest of us?